By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor email@example.com | Posted 9 hours ago
LOGAN — There are good reasons as to why the Warren Warriors blanked the Logan Chieftains 5-0 in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League soccer match Thursday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
“They’ve won the league the last two years and have nine starters returning. They’re a veteran team,” said Logan coach Ian Riddlebarger, whose Chieftain lineup consists of several freshmen and sophomores. “They have some younger guys mixed in there, but I know we’re young. I realize that.”
Plainly stated, the Warriors are good. Very good.
Warren scored less than three minutes into the match to take the lead and never looked back to maintain a slim hold on the SEOAL lead at the season’s midway point.
The Warriors (8-0-1 overall) finished the first round of league play 4-0-1, with Jackson (4-1) and Athens (3-1-1) hot on their heels. Warren and Athens played to a scoreless tie to account for the lone blemish on the Warriors’ record.
Still, Warren coach Andrew Johnson credited the Chiefs (2-3-2, 0-3-2) for playing well and making his team work for much of what it got.
“They gave us a ton of pressure in the middle and made us work for everything,” Johnson said. “They really got us out of rhythm on possession. We love playing possession — and their work rate and high intensity really bothered us. I was very frustrated with how my team played.”
However, the Warriors dominated most of the key elements of the game. They out-shot the Chiefs 17-2 — Logan did not get a shot in the second half — and took six corner kicks to two for the Chiefs.
They took the lead with 37:25 left in the first half when, after the Chiefs failed to clear the ball out of their penalty area, freshman Zed Strahler got it under control and put it over Logan goalkeeper Isaac Gwinn’s head and into the back of the net.
Logan got both of its shots in the first half but only forced Warren keeper Heath Hutchinson to make one save.
Both coaches, however, liked how the Chiefs played.
“They’re a young team,” Johnson said of the Chiefs. “We got lucky and got some finishes, and we got some breaks to go our way. That’s how soccer goes. We can beat them 5-0 tonight and turn around and tie them 1-1 next game.
“With their intensity, they’re going to give a lot of teams problems,” he added. “They gave us problems. I was happy to get the win.”
“I thought our guys did really well the first half,” Riddlebarger said. “I thought we were a little unfortunate. (On the first Warren goal), when you clear a ball, you have to put it up and away and put it out of the danger area.
“We work on passing the ball and not just kicking it,” he added, “but there’s a time and place to (just) kick it (away). We were doing what I wanted us to do for the most part. As I told the kids, we were even playing fairly well going forward out of the back — which we’ve struggled with greatly — but it’s (getting to) that final level and we couldn’t put it together there.”
Logan was indeed unfortunate on Warren’s second goal.
With 9:27 left in the half, senior Jake Riffle — who would score two second-half goals — drilled a shot in the left side of the penalty area that a Logan defender misplayed into the Logan net for an own goal.
“Sometimes in this game you have to put balls in dangerous areas,” Riddlebarger said. “On that second goal, I told (the Logan defender) that every great defender has had an own goal or two in his career. It’s unfortunate, but it happens sometimes.
The Warriors “were putting balls in dangerous areas and forcing us to make plays,” he added, “and that’s what comes out of it sometimes. We have to a little better job getting to that point (and) getting that final level.”
With the halftime score 2-0, the Chiefs knew they still had a chance — and the Warriors knew they were one goal away from probably breaking things open.
It was the Warriors who came through.
Just 3:01 into the second half, Gwinn saved a Warren shot but Riffle gained control to the keeper’s left, beat a defender and sent a crossing shot into the net for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
“We came out and gave up that early goal,” Riddlebarger said, “then, at two-nil, (if) you get that (next) goal you can swing momentum on your side. But, unfortunately, we gave up that third goal.”
Koch then made it 4-0 with 15:07 remaining when he pounced on a loose ball in the left side of the penalty area and scored.
The Warriors got their fifth and final counter with 9:43 remaining on a Nate Robinson penalty kick after Gwinn was called for a foul in the penalty box.
“We have some good upperclassmen,” Johnson praised. “We only lost two players from last year, and (the Chiefs) lost what, 16? So they’re rebuilding and we’re supposed to win.
“They competed and you can’t take anything away from them,” he added of the Chiefs. “The score might say 5-0, but they competed hard.”
Warren hosts Athens in a big SEOAL match next Thursday to open the second round of conference play.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs reach the halfway point of their season schedule Saturday evening when they travel to Philo for a non-league game before returning home for an SEOAL clash with Jackson next Thursday and a non-conference tilt against Piketon next Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve done some good things the last couple games and hopefully we can keep doing them and building on that and get some good results,” Riddlebarger said. “There are some opportunities in these coming games. If we can get a couple wins on our side… you never know what can happen.”
Around the SEOAL: Athens held off Alexander 3-2 and Jackson downed Gallipolis 4-1 in Thursday’s other conference matches.
SEOAL records midway through the league season are Warren 4-0-1, Jackson 4-1, Athens 3-1-1, Alexander 1-3-1, Logan 0-3-2 and Gallipolis 0-4-1.