By John Bombatch
LEBANON — Too much Roger Bacon Spartans speed meant trouble for the Yellow Springs Bulldogs, Wednesday night in the Division III regional semifinal matchup at Jim VanDeGrift Stadium’s Atrium Field.
The Spartans, ranked no. 3 in the final Division III regular season poll, capitalized on their speed to claim a 4-1 win.
“I knew from the start that they were going to be a tough team to match-up against individually,” Bulldogs coach Ben VanAusdal said. “I mean, they had 6-7 guys who are amazingly fast and quick. They’re really good with their ball control, and even with all the scouting that we’d done, they were just still amazing.”
Roger Bacon (18-2-1) got on the board first when its speed and quickness caused a Yellow Springs defender to try and clear Ethan Hay’s pass from the right side. But instead, the Bulldog knocked it into his own goal, and the Spartans had the match’s first score with less than a minute played in the contest.
Roger Bacon coach Matt Braun said his team hates it when he makes them do running drills in each practice, but said Wednesday’s outcome proved it is all worth it.
“They all hate it when I tell them to get on the line, but it truly works in every game,” he said. “We have a lot of players who are quick like that, and it is tough to defend.”
Hay got the Spartans on the board five minutes later with another drive from the right side. This time, his shot pinged off the right post and into the goal for a 2-0 Roger Bacon lead.
That score held up for the remainder of the first half.
In the second half, Yellow Springs (11-5-1) appeared to be the aggressor in the early going. The team’s leading scorer — Joe Plumer — had been hounded by the Spartan defense throughout the contest. He ran around with a big bulky cast on his arm, a remnant of a break suffered in the upset win last week over no.5-ranked Dayton Christian, but the Yellow Springs senior was able to drive deep into the Roger Bacon side of the field before he was fouled, to set up a penalty kick.
Fellow senior Augie Knemeyer took the penalty kick and booted a low roller into the right corner of the goal for what turned out to be the Bulldogs’ only score of the match with 36:31 left to play in the contest. It was just the second goal Roger Bacon had allowed in the postseason.
But the no.3 Spartans began to take control the rest of the way. First Gideon Fomba knocked in a shot from the right side to put the Spartans out in front 3-1 with 30 minutes left to play.
Five minutes later, Austin Fulton weaved his way through a trio of Bulldog defenders before getting off a strong shot from close range into the right side of the Yellow Springs goal. Roger Bacon was in control with a 4-1 lead.
VanAusdal said his 2016 team finally got “over the hump.”
“I’m really proud of my boys. We hadn’t been able to win in 9 of the last 10 years in the district finals, and we finally did it this year,” he said. “They played really hard today. When it was 2-1, I thought we were going to climb back up. But they were just too strong. Roger Bacon is a really solid team.”
Plumer, Hayden Orme, Enrique Villa-Coronado, Kenny McKinley, Landon Rhoads, Tristan Giardullo, Knemeyer and Elliott Smithberger were seniors for the district champion Bulldogs this season.
The Spartans will now play the Summit Country Day-Troy Christian winner for the regional title at noon, Saturday Nov. 5 at a venue yet to be determined.