Oak Glen wins title
NEW MANCHESTER – In order for the Oak Glen boys soccer team to build a two-goal advantage on Tyler Consolidated on Saturday, senior forward Cullen Bennett had to forget about the playbook.
“We usually push the corner on everything,” he said. “One pass came across to me and all that was going through my head was that I was going to put this one in.”
The goal followed an Addison Sayre score at the 37:26 mark of the first half. Bennett’s came at the 18:54 mark and the Golden Bears would score three more times for a 5-2 win over the Silver Knights in the Class AA-A Region 1, Section 1 tournament.
They improved to 13-7 on the year, while advancing to their first regional tournament in recent memory.
“It means a lot,” Bennett said. “It means the world to me. Our thought process this entire season was to leave a legacy and right now that’s what we’re doing.”
Oak Glen, led by eight seniors, scored four goals in the first half, thanks in part to a strong wind at their backs.
“The wind was unbelievable,” said Tyler coach Scott Wall. “It really played a difference.”
Sayre’s goal came on a long sweeping kick from 25 yards out, while Bennett’s goal was a floater past Knights goaltender, Nathan Heintzman.
“I get it and it’s up in the air,” Bennett said. “I try to just kick it right over the keeper’s head and it soared into the goal.”
Bennett scored again, 12 minutes later, from 30 yards away. It rolled untouched through Heintzman’s left side.
“The wind was a big momentum changer right off the bat,” said Oak Glen coach Aaron Bennett, Cullen’s father. “We had to take advantage of it.”
Tyler (8-6-3) beat the Bears, 3-0, to open the season back in August. The Knights, however, have been without leading scorer Dylan Romine who went down with an ACL tear midway through the year in a game against Liberty High School.
Romine, a first-team all-state player in 2012, scored twice in that opening season win.
“Losing him was really tough,” Wall said. “We struggled to find someone to replace him.”
Matthew Gowdy and Federico Perez did their part on Saturday to step up.
They each scored second half goals after Devin Poley put Oak Glen up 4-0 heading into halftime.
“We warned (goaltender) Nate (Bennett) with a four-goal lead that they had nothing left to lose,” Aaron Bennett said of the message to his other son at halftime. “They were going to give us their best shot and they did.”
The Knights were playing in their seventh-straight sectional final. They’ve advanced to regionals three times in those seasons.
“We told them that we’re going to finish strong,” Wall said. “We were going to play with class and battle back.
“Wind has been a factor in games that we’ve played in and we could come back in it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case here. But we had some finishing power at the end.”
Poley, though, concluded the scoring with his second goal with less than a minute remaining. As Heintzman was charging for the ball, Poley kicked it high over his head, from 25 yards away, and it bounced twice before falling into the net.
“This is a very special team,” Aaron Bennett said.
The Bears now face East Fairmont on Thursday at Weir High. The Bees beat Fairmont Senior, 2-0, on Saturday in another sectional final.