BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — At one time, Anthony Wayne boys soccer was 6-8, but many losses came against some of the best teams in Ohio.
Since, AW has won five games in a row, improving to 11-8, and is regional tournament-bound. That means two more wins and the Generals are in the Division I state final four.
It is the ninth straight year that AW got double-digit wins and the ninth straight year the Generals boys soccer team reached the district final. It was also the fifth straight year AW and Northview matched up in a district final or regional semifinal.
“That means nine straight district finals for Anthony Wayne and it means a lot that we got to be a part of it,” senior forward Jorey Rees said. “It’s a huge record.”
To win a district championship, AW had to avenge regular-season losses to St. Francis and Northern Lakes League champion Northview, ranked 13th in the state.
The Generals successfully beat the Knights and Wildcats, both by 2-1 scores, but in different fashion.
“It’s unbelievable,” said AW coach Brian Billings. “Who would have thought, right?
“Going in, no one gave us much of a chance, and to be able to come through and play these games and get wins and just grind it out is incredible,” Billings continued.
“I’m just so happy for these guys. They played through so much lately, that they earned this.”
AW handed Northview just its second loss of the season in the district final at Springfield High School on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats, which had defeated AW 1-0 on October 6, finish their season 12-2-2.
The Generals got two quick first-half scores, then held off a furious Northview attempt to tie the game in the second half.
Just two minutes and 14 seconds after the opening kickoff, AW sophomore center midfielder Collin Parker sent a corner kick just exactly where it had to go, and sophomore forward Parker Schofield was right where he needed to be.
Schofield perfectly caught Parker’s kick with a header that got past Northview senior goalkeeper Andrew Beazley, and just like that: The Generals were in business.
“If I’m being honest, I just jumped and my eyes were closed,” Schofield said. “I was trying to get a head on it, and it just happened to go into the left top corner.”
Nearly 20 minutes later, Rees sent a forward pass downfield, where senior center forward Shamarr Lipinski found the handle.
Lipinski beat a defender and the goalkeeper and successfully converted from penalty kick distance, giving AW a 2-0 lead with 17:08 remaining in the first half.
“I had seen Jorey coming from out wide, so I went inside and I just touched it and it got the corner (of the net),” Lipinski said.
The second half saw AW senior goalkeeper Caden Betts and his defensive back line stand up to an aggressive Northview attack.
Billings said his team did not change their strategy much, but the Generals found themselves on their defensive zone much of the second half.
“We just had to play our game,” Billings said. “We wanted to keep doing what we were doing, but we knew they were going to come out swinging.”
The Wildcats only had three shots on goal the second half but had multiple attempts that went just wide or were thwarted by AW’s defensive backfield.
“We had to really pack it in and play tough,” Schofield said. “There were close calls a couple times.”
Northview junior Tony Saggese nailed a distant shot from the left side, sending it into the upper right corner of the net just four minutes and 15 seconds after the second-half kickoff.
“When they got that goal, we thought they were going to tie it up, but we stood our ground and held on,” Lipinski said.
Billings added, “When they got that early goal, we just knew it was going to be a grind then, and we just battled. When every individual battled, they got up and they held it down.”
Northview also had four second-half corner kicks, while AW had none, but the Wildcats failed to convert.
Much of the game was fought at midfield with the Wildcats getting seven shots on goal to AW’s six. Northview finished the game with six corner kick opportunities to AW’s three.