Mark Carpenter/The People’s Defender
A common sight in last week’s regional semi-final soccer game was Peebles goalie Tyler Gray diving across the wet turf to knock away a Worthington Christian shot attempt. Even in the defeat, Gray was one of the highlights of the game with numerous diving or leaping saves.
Mark Carpenter/The People’s Defender
Peebles’ Jacob Gross gets possession of the ball and heads up the wet field during last week’s regional semi-final soccer game at Bloom-Carroll High School.
In cold and rain, defending state champs put an end to Peebles run
Worthington Christian eliminates the Indians 7-0
There were no tricks and most definitely no treats on Halloween night for the Peebles boys' soccer squad as they continued their tournament run with trip to the regional semi-finals. After a long trek to Bloom-Carroll High School, the Indians were met by miserable weather and the Division III defending state champions, the Worthington Christian Warriors. Faced with tough conditions and an even tougher opponent, the Indians saw their remarkable season come to an end, suffering their first defeat at the hands of the Warriors by a final count of 7-0.
"Playing a team like Worthington Christian is overwhelming," said Peebles head coach Gus Denzik. "You just hope that they underestimate you and that you play your best game of the season. I told our team going in that we were facing a David and Goliath matchup and we had nothing to lose."
The Warriors, who have won three state titles in the past six seasons, made a statement early in this contest as they were on the board with less than two minutes played on a goal by J.J. Phillips.
"We went into the game hopeful but within the first two minutes, we watched them take us apart and score," said Denzik. "We tried to shore up a few things but they were just that good. I have never seen a club as good as Worthington Christian."
Throughout the first half, the Warriors thoroughly controlled possession of the ball and added their second goal of the game in the 14th minute, this one off a corner kick that slipped through Peebles' goalie Tyler Gray's wet gloves and to the foot of the Warriors' Joe Long, who knocked it home.
For the next 13 minutes of action, the story of the game was the outstanding play in the net of Gray, diving, leaping, and punching away shots from all directions.
"Tyler has had a great season, but because of how good our midfield and defense has played, he hasn't seen much action," said Coach Denzik. "He made up for it in the last two games. When the competition is better, the keeper gets a workout. He was the man of the game against Alexander (district finals) and even the Worthington Christian team told our players tonight that Gray was the best keeper they had seen all season."
"Tyler is a phenomenal talent. He had several diving punch outs that were professional quality. He is the real deal and some college is going to get a superstar."
The Warriors added two more goals before the end of the first forty minutes to take a 4-0 advantage into the break as the Indians had yet to record their first shot on goal. As the wind, cold, and rain continued to worsen, the defending champions continued to score with freshman Sam Condon getting one by Gray just two minutes into the second half.
The Indians' offense began to show signs of life in the second half, beginning when a shot by Jonathan Pryor was redirected wide to the left two minutes in. The corner kick by Stone Crothers off of that deflection was handled by Warriors' keeper Jake Kress. The Indians almost got a gift goal a few minutes later when a Worthington defender headed a ball that made its way towards the Peebles net but bounced off the top bar of the net and away.
Worthington Christian managed to score three more times in the final 13 minutes of play, saddling the Indians with their first defeat of the season, with Peebles finishing 18-1-1. The Warriors (12-5-3) moved on to the regional finals, where they knocked off Berlin Hiland 4-2 to advance to the Final Four with a chance to defend their state crown.(Update: Worthington Christian was shut out by Summit Country Day in the state semi-finals.)
Even with the defeat, Coach Denzik was happy with what his team's season has done for soccer in the area.
"Peebles having this kind of season legitimizes our program and the Southern Hills League," said the Peebles head man. "Even when we have a down year, we will now have respect whenever we step on the field and winning the district has elevated the SHL to be a force to be reckoned with."
"With each passing season, the SHL continues to get better. Better soccer is played now than seven years ago when my oldest son stepped on the field as a freshman. When my youngest son stepped off the field after a hard loss to Worthington Christian, we had a glimpse of what soccer could be in the future and we will be back at some point."
With their season ending, the Indians bid farewell to a class of seniors who have brought success like never before to the program: Clay Keidel, Cody Hemming, Jonathan Pryor, Jack Chalker, Anthony Seaman, Adam Harris, Stone Crothers, Dakota Evans, and Tyler Gray.
With his team suffering big graduation losses, Denzik knows that the group has set the standard for soccer at Peebles.
"Each year as a coach, I hope to have five to seven players come up as freshman," says Denzik. "If that is what I get, I can build a successful program. This senior class had nine players, eight of whom have played all four years and I have coached many of them for six years. They were champions as eighth graders and stuck with it to do what they have done this year."
"My hope is that they have inspired the guys who played years ago to come back and that kids who are playing now will aspire to be part of a new tradition at Peebles of having winning seasons and making runs deep into the tournament."