Wheeling Park Boys Avenge State Title Loss
White Nets Game-Winner With 28 Seconds Remaining
WHEELING — It was only fitting that a rematch of last year’s state championship opened up the 2018 season in thrilling fashion.
As the anticipation grew and time ticked away in a deadlock between defending state champion Hurricane and state runner-up Wheeling Park on Saturday, junior defender Philip White became an offensive hero.
Coleman Meredith lined up for a corner kick and delivered a ball that slipped through Hurricane goalkeeper Nick Eskins’ hands. White was waiting on the other side and headed in the game-winning goal with just 28 seconds remaining in the match, lifting Wheeling Park to a 2-1 triumph over Hurricane at Wheeling Island Stadium.
The perfectly timed netter was White’s first career goal in three years of being a varsity starter and one he will always remember.
“This is a thrilling feeling,” White said. “I knew we had to beat these guys. In a tie game, less than a minute left, I was just putting my body on the line. I was going head first and I just went for it. It was natural instinct that came at the end of the game.”
The execution displayed by the Patriots on the decisive goal was due to great effort and hard work put in during the offseason and practice.
“At that point, I knew it was either going to end in a tie or we were going to get a good look,” Park coach Mario Julian said. “Coleman knows exactly where to put them because we work on it all the time.
“White did a great job of crashing the back post and he had a wide open look at it. “His first career goal was a game-winner and I know he is really excited about it.”
Wheeling Park trailed 1-0 for the majority of the match but a halftime message from Julian to his team sparked the Patriots’ rally.
“This was the team that ended our season last year,” Julian said. “I think we were too hyped for the game coming in. Our best players couldn’t possess the ball, trap the ball and they made poor decisions early. We felt fortunate to only be down 1-0 at halftime.
“Once we got in the locker room, we challenged the players to be better. We have nine returning starters. We should be the more relaxed team and be able to dictate the pace of the game.
“In the second half, I thought we did a good job of that. I thought we had the ball at their end an awful lot in the second half and we got two goals to get the victory, which was exciting.”
The first goal was a credit to solid team passing by the Patriots. Louie Aulick secured the ball near midfield and sent a pass down the sideline to Andrew Glass. Glass quickly dished out a crossing pass to Meredith in front of the net for the equalizer with 22:01 left in the match.
“What we do is, if I make a run, we have someone stay back,” Meredith said. “I made the run forward, waited for it and stayed on the line. It was a great ball from Andrew straight to my foot.
“I am very glad about the overall performance of my team, though. It was a very good match.”
Meredith is one of Park’s top players and he showed why in the second half, amassing a goal and an assist in just 22 minutes.
“Meredith is one of our better players but he kind of struggled in the first half,” Julian said. “I think he was a little too hyped up, as well but he came out and played really well in the second half.”
Another factor in the game that won’t show up in the box score is the strong second half play of the Wheeling Park midfielders, led by Chris Romanek.
“Our midfield won the second half,” Julian said. “They keyed on Chris and took him out of the game in the first half but we challenged him to be the best player on the field in the second half and he responded greatly.
“Hurricane has Ryan Fisher and Colton Jones as center mids and they are excellent. They were all-state players last year but I thought our three played better than their three in the second half.”
Park’s Zach Calvert needed just four saves to earn the victory, while Eskins made six stops for the Redskins.
Hurricane’s only goal came at the 23:10 mark of the first half when Alex Foose headed in a corner kick to break a scoreless tie.
“Park is a really good team,” Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine said. “We have a whole new back line, replaced our goalkeeper and there were a lot of things we had to do in the offseason.
“The game didn’t just get away from us on the last goal but in the last 20 minutes of the match.
“Park just stepped it up a notch. They wanted it more than us and they ultimately got it.”