CENTERVILLE — As far as defenses are concerned, bending but not breaking makes for a stressful match. That’s precisely what the Botkins Trojans experienced on Saturday in a Division III regional final matchup with Cincinnati Seven Hills at Centerville Alumni Stadium.
Seven Hills came out on the attack repeatedly in the first half as the Trojan defense held their ground. But Botkins took over in the second half, scored a late goal and held on for a 1-0 victory, which earns the program its first-ever regional title and state berth.
Much of the first half was played on the Botkins defensive end of the field. Unofficially, the Stingers outshot Botkins 15 to 1 in the first half. The aggressive play of the Trojan defense and freshman goalkeeper Carson Motter were the keys in going into halftime scoreless.
“We came out a little nervous; they (Seven Hills) have some big guys,” Botkins coach Kevin Lynch said. “I can’t talk right now, we gutted it out.”
Lynch’s young team, which has only three seniors, showed its guts in a battle that became pretty testy in the second half.
The Trojans turned the tide on ball control and spent the majority of the second half on the Stingers’ side of the field. They were able to attack on the perimeter and then center the passes to flashing teammates.
Seven Hills’ shots on goal were cut in half while Botkins provided enough pressure to pose a threat. Two of those instances were made by junior Zack Ware, first with 34:45 remaining in the second half from the front of the penalty box on a straight shot to the goalkeeper. The second was from the left wing at the corner of the goal box nearly 10 minutes later from about eight feet away, only to barely be swatted away by the Seven Hills keeper.
With 17:25 remaining and the game still scoreless, junior Nate Schneider dribbled past the defense up the left sideline, delivered a perfect center pass for a would-be teammate to set up a potential score, but there was nobody there to deliver the shot.
“We thought that if we keep going, we could beat them on the outside,” Lynch said. “I knew we could get it on the counter.”
That counter came in a flash. With the Seven Hills sideline screaming for a penalty while an injured player was down on the turf, the Trojans kept playing and went on the attack. This time, Schneider found himself one-on-one with the goalie in the middle of the field. His goal at 6:30 put the pressure onto the Stingers to try to tie the score.
Their best opportunity occurred at the 5:00 mark where a shot from the right side appeared to be headed for the net. However, not to be deterred, Botkins freshman goalkeeper Carson Motter dove directly to his right to put a glove on the shot and deflect it enough to miss the mark. That failed threat seemed to take the life out of the Stingers and put the energy into the Botkins faithful.
Motter answered the bell every time, an effort that was not lost on his grateful coach.
“We only go as far as Carson takes us,” said Lynch.
Seven Hills never threatened again, and the ensuing celebration told the story. Botkins who last week had earned the first district title in program history, kept the magic going with the first-ever regional title.
Unofficially, Motter finished the game with 18 saves.
Botkins (19-0-2) will now move on to play Columbus Wellington, a 5-0 winner over South Webster, in the state semifinals at Springfield High School Stadium on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“We just keep plugging along,” exclaimed Lynch.
Seven Hills, who came into the tournament ranked No. 8 in the state in Div. III, finishes at 14-3-4.