BEAVERCREEK — The pressure against them was relentless, but Greeneview’s defense was unalarmed as the minutes ticked away.
As the final seconds ran off the clock, the Rams were able to relax and soak in the moment of celebration with the upset it had achieved.
No. 11-seeded Greeneview advanced to the Division III District Finals with a 2-1 upset of No. 1-seed and state ranked Legacy Christian at Beavercreek’s Frank Zink Field.
“This was a big game and [LCA] was a really good team” Greeneview head coach T.J. Milby said. “We came out and didn’t play scared. They didn’t play timid. They were aggressive from the start and that’s something we’re really proud of about them.”
The Rams reached the same round last season but came out on the losing end against a top-seed. A 0-3-2 start to this season made for an ominous feeling for how the year may play out, but the team recovered and only allowed four goals during a stretch of 11 wins in 13 matches.
A year later and back playing for another chance at a district finals appearance, the experience and fortitude the team developed paid off.
“We were always confident and that’s hard to do when you’re 0-3-2,” Milby said. “They stayed confident and it really showed, it paid off for them.”
LCA entered the match unbeaten with 18 consecutive wins and was ranked No. 3 in the final OSCCA state poll of the season, but fell behind early and weren’t able to find an equalizer despite numerous opportunities.
The Knights set a school record for wins, won the Metro Buckeye Conference and earned the top seed in the district.
“This season means everything to me, to these guys and it was just a wonder season and nothing should be taken away from these kids,” LCA head coach Joe McCaskey said. “They earned every bit of it. League champions and a perfect regular season can never be taken away from them.”
An early corner kick opportunity just over two minutes into the match led to the Rams gaining the immediate advantage. Andrew Hurley’s kick was deflected away from the net, but no player was able to corral it. Goalkeeper Adam Newell charged ahead for the Knights, but Hayden Laudermilk was able to get to it first and fired a shot toward the opposite top corner to put Greeneview ahead 1-0.
Legacy wasn’t able to get its attack to sustain pressure until midway through the first half. The Knights also sent several long shots from outside the box barely over the net, including one that hit the crossbar, but were unable to score before halftime.
Newell rebounded late in the half when Greeneview got off three shots on goal from near point blank range in a matter of seconds, but he was able to deflect all of the attempts to keep his team within one.
Hurley got a penalty kick opportunity at the 34:47 mark of the second half and put it out of the reach of Newell in the bottom right corner of the net to double the Rams lead.
Andrew Riddle within minutes brought the Knights back within one with a shot straight on from the net from roughly 30 yards out that sailed over Rams keeper Landon Gardner to make the score 2-1.
LCA kept up the pressure as the majority of play stayed close to the Greeneview net for the remainder of the match. Gardner was cool headed and made several saves to help maintain the lead.
“I know my guys around me got things and can help clear out anything,” Gardner said. “Anything in front of the goal I know to go for while they can handle the rest.”
Legacy will lose three seniors to graduation, but could return it’s top two scorers and netkeeper for another run next season. The loss is still an unexpected ending for a squad which felt it was playing well.
“You’re bound to lose one game,” McCaskey said. “It’s bound to happen. Unfortunately it happened in a win or go home game. It’s tough to lose this way but nothing can ever be taken away from these guys.”
Greeneview will play for a district championship at 7 p.m. on Thursday against Mariemont. The game will be held at Bellbrook High School’s Miami Valley South Stadium.
In the meantime, the Rams with a sectional title in hand have a lot to be happy about.
“I think these guys deserve this for all the work that they’ve done,” Milby said. “I think more than anything, this is just vindication for them. They worked day after day and everybody gets to recognize what they’re worked to achieve.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.