By DAVE MORRISON
WHEELING - It wasn't where Wheeling Park's Grant Robertson wanted to be, not in a game like the one his Patriots were playing against undefeated Morgantown.
PHOTO by DAVE MORRISON
Wheeling Park’s Nick Nestor controls in front of Morgantown’s Ben Vester.
Yet there he was, on the sideline, a victim of a deep bruise on his backside, courtesy of a fall when he went high trying to head away a pass deep into the Patriots defensive end. He was upended with about 26 minutes to play, and his team holding on to a precarious 2-0 lead against a suddenly rejuventated Mohigans squad.
When Robertson left the game, the Patriots defense was suddenly upended as well.
Morgantown scored almost immediately after Robertson went down.
Park rebounded, dodged a couple of big-time bullets and held on to upend the Mohigans 2-1.
"When you are missing your best player, it defects the whole system, and as you saw that they took advantage of that almost as soon as Grant went out," Park coach Mario Julian said. "Grant is our best defensive player, he's a leader and he gets guys where they need to be defensively. When he wasn't in there, we got out of alignment and a good team takes advantage of that. Morgantown is a good team."
"I'm just glad we won the game," Robertson said, holding a bag of ice in one hand after the match. "I'd much rather be out there with my teammates, helping us win. The guys really stepped it up though and we got a big win."
"We have quality guys who can play," Julian added. "You want your best players out there, but we were able to get the win. In terms of the OVAC and the Two Rivers Athletic Conference, it was a huge win."
As aggressive as Morgantown attacked the net in the second half, it was Park that came out early and took it to the Mohigans.
Eric Bonar started the scoring with a putback of a deflection in front of the net at the 20:08 mark. With 51.5 seconds left in the first half, Braeden Carroll scored off a pass from assist master Zach Marra.
In the second half, it was Morgantown (5-1-0) that was on the attack.
Yet Wheeling Park was relentless in allowing any harm to come from the attacking Mohigans. Until Robertson went down.
Nate Mauck scored off a pass centered by Ben Vester to pull Morgantown to within one.
They continued on the attack. The Mohigans best chance at an equalizer came with 15:40 to play, when Nate Mauck had a wide-open look at the goal but his shot said just over the crossbar.
Park (5-0-1) clamped down on defense after that and held on for the win.
"I was not happy with our play at all in the first half," Morgantown coach Joe Melia said. "I thought we played better in the second half, started to attack. We had a couple of opportunities but we didn't cash in on them. Give them credit. Park always has a great team, they're very aggressive. You know what you are going to get. We can play with them. I'm sure we'll see them again."
The Patriots have allowed just three goals through six games, a tribute to goalkeeper Ryan Seidewitz and the Patriots defense.
"We take a lot of pride in it," Robertson said. "All our hard work is showing so far."