Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
With the postseason right around the corner, West Union High School hosted a regular season Southern Hills Athletic Conference match up between two fierce county rivals on the soccer field as the North Adams Green Devils ventured to the county seat to battle the host Dragons. It was the only regular season meeting for the two teams and this one was dominated by the play of North Adams senior Tray Brand.
Brand put together a three-goal game, the hat trick if you may, and the Green Devils rode that to a 5-2 victory, improving their record to 9-6 on the season.
The scoring began early and it was a gift from the home team, the dreaded “own goal” as a centering pass by the Devils’ Jaden Hesler deflected off of a West Union defender and into the goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead just two minutes and seven seconds into the contest.
The game turned defensive after that point, with neither team getting solid scoring opportunities, the Dragons failing to convert a pair of corner kicks and the Devils missing out on one when West Union goalie Colt Parker was able to make the save.
With 6:24 to go in the first half, Brand got his first score of the night, finding an opening in the West Union defense from about 20 yards out and drilling one home to make it 2-0, which is how the scoreboard remained until halftime.
The tough, defensive, and sometimes physical play continued early into the second half and at the 28:58 mark, Brand struck again, masterfully dribbling his way through a group of defenders and firing a bullet from 10 yards out into the top of the net to give North Adams a 3-0 advantage.
The home team finally broke the ice five minutes later with a goal by senior Trevor Neal, but six minutes later the Devils got that goal back when a pair of West Union headers to clear the ball left it close enough to the net that North Adams’ Jaden Hesler could get his foot on it and get it into the goal to make it 4-1 Devils.
The elusive hat trick came Brand’s way with 12:23 to play when he once again magically weaved his way through defenders and made enough room for himself to let loose a shot that beat the Dragon keeper for a 5-1 North Adams lead. The final goal of the contest came two minutes later off the foot of West Union senior Chase Cummings and when time finally expired, the Devils could celebrate that ninth win by the final count of 5-2.
The victorious Devils completed their regular season on the road Thursday night with a trip to Washington Courthouse and will begin tournament play on Wednesday, Oct. 18 when they host a sectional final against another county rival, the Peebles Indians. Game time is set for 5 p.m. at NAHS.
The loss on Wednesday ended the West Union regular season and the Dragons will be the first county team to hit the tourney trail when they will host a sectional semi-final game on Saturday, Oct. 14. West Union will battle the Portsmouth West Senators, game time set for 11 a.m.