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Red Devils Get Past Potters, 2-1

Photo by Kim North St. Clairsville’s Jack Gasber (7) controls the ball as East Liverpool’s Justin Christenson defends during Tuesday’s Class 4A semifinal matchup.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — East Liverpool and St. Clairsville have developed quite a rivalry over the past few years in boys soccer, especially in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A tournament. Tuesday night was nothing out of the ordinary. The two schools have split the last two titles, with St. Clairsville winning last fall.

The top-seeded Red Devils took a 2-0 lead late into their semifinal match, but had to withstand a furious rally by the No. 4 Potters before securing a 2-1 victory on the artificial surface inside Red Devil Stadium.

With the hard-earned victory, St. Clairsville (7-0-2) will look to defend its championship on Saturday at 9 a.m. inside Brooke Memorial in Wellsburg. The Red Devils await the winner of Thursday’s other semifinal between No. 2 Beaver Local and third-seeded Indian Creek. That match begins at 5 p.m. in Lisbon.

“They never gave up. They are a strong team,” St. Clairsville head coach Jeff Roberts said of the Potters (3-3-2). “They are one of our bigger rivals. They never gave up and kept putting it to us there in the second half. It got a little crazy toward the end, but we were able to pull it off.”

Nate Thornburg gave St. Clairsville a 1-0 lead late in the sixth minute. The junior took advantage of some miscommunication between East Liverpool goalkeeper Cole Dailey and a teammate. As the ball trickled past the pair of Potters, Thornburg slipped past them and banged the ball into the net while avoiding a collision with the near post.

“I had just switched him for midfield to forward and it just happened that he was in the right spot at the right time and was able to finish,” Roberts said in recalling the first goal. Great play all around.”

The Red Devils made it 2-0 in the 24th minute when Noah Palmer split a pair of defenders in the middle of the box. Moving to his left, he unleashed a left-footed blast that found the top right corner of the cage. Jack Gasber assisted.

“Our forwards do have some good foot skills. We really work on that and today was a great team effort,” Roberts said.

To East Liverpool’s credit, it never laid down. In fact, the visitors dominated much of the second half and were pressuring when the final buzzer sounded.

“We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half and we dug ourselves a hole that we weren’t able to get out of,” East Liverpool coach Chase Hilliard said. “If we would’ve played the entire game the way we came out in the second half, it would’ve been a much better game. But we only showed up for 40 minutes instead of 80.”

Jacob Myers got the Potters on the scoreboard in the 69th minute when he buried a penalty kick past St. Clairsville goalkeeper Shane Jackson. However, despite a ton of late opportunities, Jackson was up to the test each and every time.”

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