BY ETHAN LILLARD
MEDIAPOLIS – Holy Trinity Catholic boy’s soccer team was held scoreless in just four games over the course of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Crusaders’ second-round substate opponent in West Liberty held seven teams scoreless in regular season play and recorded a first-round shut out against Columbus/Winfield-Mount Union.
The Comets recorded a second-straight post season shut out against Holy Trinity Wednesday night at Mediapolis High School, winning by the final of 4-0. With the win, West Liberty advances to the IHSAA Class 1A Substate five championship game against Burlington Notre Dame.
“Amazing,” Holy Trinity Catholic Head Coach Ryan Culbertson said when asked how he felt his team did overall on the season after the loss. “Yesterday I had 12 players at practice. That’s the most I’ve had all season. I usually have six to nine or ten players at practice.
“They have a lot of things going on. My team did a very good job considering the amount of time I had with them … They are quality kids.”
With the second round game deciding who would go on to the championship and who would go home, both teams played like the game meant life or death, as a total of four yellow cards were called during the 80 minute match.
Ronald Guzman recorded the first goal of the game just eight minutes in the match, giving West Liberty the 1-0 lead.
The Comets dominated the time of possession, making crisp passes and slicing through the Holy Trinity defense. Crusader goalie Blake Crabtree had his hands full all night.
Jahsiah Galvan was the main culprit behind Crabtree’s busy day between the sticks, as the Comets’ freshman took multiple shots on goal in the first half, all of which were deflected by Crabtree.
Crabtree’s keeper skills were on full display in the 16th minute. Galvan and the Comets had the ball in the box and had what appeared to be the perfect shot at gaining a 2-0 lead. Crabtree had other ideas, sending a ball away with a diving save and leaping in the air for another after the rebound was immediately shot back at the goal.
“I had to stay calm and just play my hardest and get back in the goal and stop them,” Crabtree said. “We came in thinking they were going to be a pretty tough team and obviously they were.”
Towards the end of the first half, things started to get chippy, as West Liberty’s Guzman was called for a yellow card. Despite having the ball on their offensive side of the field for most of the second half, the Comets went into the break with just a 1-0 lead.
Galvan continued his onslaught of the goal in the second half, taking a corner kick from Carlos Atondo in midair and turning it into a goal for a 2-0 lead.
As the game started to wear on, so did the Crusaders defense. In full attack mode with the ball in the box again Guzman this time went sliding to the ground to kick a pass to teammate Sebastian Mata. Mata shot for the goal but the ball glanced off the right upright. Guzman was there for the rebound, collecting himself for the shot and his second goal to give the Comets the 3-0 lead.
After the score, things got chippy again, as Joshua Mateo collected the second yellow card of the game for West Liberty in the 14th minute. The game got so intense that officials talked to both team captains to give them a warning.
The warning fell on deaf ears, as Jason Rees collected a yellow card for Holy Trinity two minutes later.
“There were some pretty blatant fouls in the second half,” Culbertson said. “Some of them were pretty stupid fouls that we shouldn’t have done. That was frustration from the players.”
The Crusaders became even further flustered when Mata saved a ball from going out of bounds on the Comets’ home half, passing the ball to a teammate before collecting it back, heading for the box. Before Mata could get his shot off, he was tripped by a Holy Trinity defender, resulting in a penalty kick.
Gabe Seele took the PK for West Liberty in the 11th minute and fooled Crabtree as he kicked the ball into the left corner and Crabtree dove to the right.
Despite the game being in the bag with the 4-0 lead, both squads remained physical. The Crusaders’ frustrations boiled over again in the fifth minute as Alec Mehmert picked up another yellow card for Holy Trinity to end the game.
“We didn’t want our season to end,” Culbertson said. “They knew they were going to be physical, we just wanted to be physical back. We kind of took it a little too far in the second half with physicality.”
Despite dropping the contest 4-0, Holy Trinity showed grit and had it not been for the lack of a bench and full practice time together, the outcome of Wednesday’s contest may have gone differently.
“We know we can play against anybody in the state in (class) 1A,” Culbertson said. “We’re a good team, we just have 14 players. I don’t have many subs. We get exhausted late in the games. I knew we could play with them, I just didn’t know for how long and it showed in the second half.”