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‘Jackets tie Patriots

Parkersburg South’s Rainer Holl works against Parkersburg South’s Shawn Cross during the Yellowjackets’ 1-1 tie against the Patriots Thursday inside Erickson All-Sports Facility. Photo by Josh Hughes

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — While the postseason is almost here for soccer in the Mountain State, Parkersburg South and Williamstown battled to a 1-1 draw in a match that felt like a playoff showdown.

It was also a tale of two halves on Thursday at the Erickson All-Sports Facility, in that Parkersburg South came out winning the first 40 minutes.

Even though Williamstown notched more first-half shots on goal, South’s defense kept them at bay. A Gavin Bosgraf free kick was gobbled up by Christian Altizer to keep it scoreless in the 4th minute. Just three minutes later, it was PSHS’s turn. WHS goalie Austin Bosgraf had his hands full with lots of action happening in front of his net when Shawn Cross headed in the match’s first goal up and just past an outstretched Bosgraf.

Any first-half opportunity presented to the ‘Jackets was snuffed out via spotless defense from head coach Jamie Whitlach’s crew.

The 18th minute saw Rainer Holl and Williamstown fail to convert on a corner kick, which was a recurring theme throughout the first half. Jason Hill’s club forced the issue plenty, as it collected six corner kicks to South’s two on the night.

The visitors didn’t score on any of those chances, but good team defense kept the score at 1-0. Dylen White ripped a shot that was collected by Bosgraf, and the goalkeeper battle didn’t stop there. Three minutes later, Altizer got the better of a Gavin Bosgraf shot, as the two sides would not budge an inch.

At the break, coach Hill addressed his Yellowjackets by saying they were only down one and that the match was far from over. South’s Whitlach praised his defense, as it played a massive part in keeping Class AA/A’s No. 6 team scoreless after a half of action.

“You don’t win 12 games for no reason,” Whitlach said of Williamstown. “(Head coach Jason Hill) is a longtime friend, so I know how he coaches and how he pushes his kids. They’re going to play hard every game, and they’ve got quality players. My four players who play in the back, I couldn’t ask for a group of four that’s better than anybody else. They play 110 percent in every game, and they leave it all on the field.”

When WHS came out from under the bleachers at the EASF, they came ready to make adjustments. Gavin Bosgraf nearly hit the equalizer in the 50th minute when he nailed a shot off the inside of the right side of the post. A minute later, Altizer saved another Bosgraf offering, but the Yellowjackets and leading scorer Alex Irvin were ready to finally pounce.

The 55th minute saw Irvin dribble to the right side of the field and score off a shot that found its way to the bottom-left corner. The tally was Irvin’s 34th goal of the season, and it changed the complexion of the match in an instant. Altizer and company were on high alert, as a Seth Hammer header missed the mark off a Williamstown throw-in in the 58th minute. Three minutes later, Irvin took his best shot at a header of his own and missed following a Holl corner kick. Williamstown kept trying to break the tie, but the Patriots were up to the challenge. Coach Hill and the ‘Jackets couldn’t strike again, but a more aggressive approach in the second have gave them more chances to score.

“That’s a testament to them. They’ve been doing this for a couple years now, getting better and better,” Hill said of the Patriots’ defense. “It was definitely a heck of a test tonight. What we talked about (at halftime) was that we’re probably going to be in this situation next week in the playoffs, where we’re at nil, or tied or even down like we were tonight. We know we hadn’t played our best game. The good news is that we were only down one, so if we can turn it up a notch and clean up the areas tat need cleaned up, we’re right back in this. They proved that, and we were on their back foot pretty much throughout most of the half.”

South had one more chance themselves to flip the script and take the lead in the 73rd minute. Nicho Roland lined up for a free kick that looked to arc in the top of the net when Austin Bosgraf went full extension and got a mitt on the ball. On the other end, Altizer weathered the storm with less than two minutes remaining. Holl lined up for the sixth corner of the night and served the ball up to multiple Williamstown teammates, but Altizer and the rest of the defense was there to clear the ball out. That preserved the tie, as South (6-10-2) travels for a sectional showdown on Tuesday to Parkersburg’s Stadium Field. In the case of Williamstown (12-3-2) its regular season finale is Saturday at Philip Barbour. South already had a Senior Day to honor White, Ayden Wilson, Hugo Hammer, Massimo Silvestri, Tyler Carpenter and Zach Scott, but tonight was PSHS’s final home contest. Whitlach gave his thoughts on the seniors and everything they’ve been through.

“The seniors have been with me since the beginning when I started coaching,” he said. “Some of them are a little frustrated, because they’re playing JV, but they’ve all been here. They’ve all been loyal. They’ve all been dedicated, and they give everything they have. They play to the best of their ability. The journey from my first year to this year has been a dramatic change.”

Contact Josh Hughes at jhughes@newsandsentinel.com

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