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Wheeling Central Comes Up Just Short in Lacrosse Title Game

Wheeling Central senior Mason Smith makes a pass during Saturday’s state title game against Spring Mills in Morgantown. Photo Provided by Andrea Figaretti

MORGANTOWN — A lot has to go right for a team to repeat as state champions.

Unfortunately, for Wheeling Central, the stars did not align on Saturday night as the defending state champion Maroon Knights lost to Spring Mills 13-4 in the West Virginia High School Lacrosse State Championship Game at JW Ruby Stadium in Morgantown.

Spring Mills finished the season with a perfect 14-0 record, while the loss drops the Knights to 13-3 and snaps their seven-game winning streak.

Spring Mills scored early and often and took a 9-0 lead into halftime, which was simply too much to overcome.

“We traditionally start slow.,” Central coach Kevin Maloney said. “I’m not going to take any credit away from Spring Mills, they are phenomenal. They just wanted it and my hat is off to that organization.

“We just had to overcome some hurdles, some attitudes and some doubts and we have to just understand that it’s a learning lesson and a game, after all. Like in life, preparation is key but sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you prepare, you’re just on the wrong side of the decision and you have to take it in stride and learn from it.”

Luke Welch scored first just 55 seconds into the match and he added another a little over seven minutes later for the 2-0 edge.

Brady Beard tallied the final two goals of the first quarter to give the Cardinals a 4-0 advantage.

In the second, Luke Campbell netted three goals and Isaiah Torres supplied two to complete the one-sided first half.

“This is awesome,” Spring Mills coach Jeremy Kortright said. “We made one game plan at the beginning of the season and we just wanted to make some small adjustments as we went but honestly we just tried to do what we do best and it worked again.

“These guys have a lot of IQ and a lot of them have been playing since they were 8 years old and it shows. That’s why they can adapt on the field so well.”

The Knights continued to battle in the second half as J.D. LaHood recorded two goals in the third, which cut the deficit to 10-2 heading to the fourth.

After goals by Campbell and Axel Bennett, Caleb Karnell accepted a stellar feed from John Emmerth with 5:30 remaining to make it a 12-3 contest.

Emmerth got into the scoring column himself moments later but it turned out to be the final goal of the year for the Knights.

Troy Gregory added the finishing touches with 7 seconds left as the Cardinals redeemed themselves from their 2019 state championship loss to the Knights.

Wheeling Central was without standout Austin Nestor, who broke his collarbone in the state semifinals and goalie John Johnson, who left for the military after the state semifinal game but despite the setbacks and obstacles, Maloney was proud of the season they all put forth.

“Nestor was out and Johnson joined the Marines but I’m glad he was part of this team and is serving his country, so we have nothing but love for him. Every year I look at them like they are my sons.”

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