High school soccer: Generals exploit homefield advantage, drop Big Reds
WINFIELD, W.Va. -- In a matchup between teams ranked second and third in the state, any advantage - no matter how small - can be very important.
Of course, simply outplaying your opponent helps.
On Tuesday night, third-ranked Winfield (9-1-0) had an advantage and outplayed Parkersburg in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Big Reds (7-2-2).
Generals Coach Mike Foster exploited the homefield advantage with a little help from Mother Nature.
A goal by Steve Taylor off a pass from Holden Sheldon in the 21st minute gave Winfield a lead the Generals managed to hold onto into the break.
"They had the wind at their back and we had to hold our defense too far back," Foster said. "In the second half we told them the wind was at their backs and the sun in front of them."
The cloud cover broke during halftime, making the sun a factor behind the west goal, something the Generals did not have to deal with in the opening period.
"It's a big advantage," Winfield junior goalkeeper Bryce Boggs said. "When you have to look to the left of the field it is blinding.
"We practice here every day," Foster said. "So we look at that."
The Generals controlled the ball and the pace of the game for most of the opening half before the Big Reds managed to mount much of an attack.
While Boggs was making three saves to keep the visitors off the scoreboard his counterpart, Reid Strobl, had to make twice as many.
The second half was more of the same with Winfield taking seven shots on goal to Parkersburg's four. The Generals maintained a significant advantage in ball possession time throughout the final forty minutes.
"We're really conditioned," Boggs said. "So we can run to the ball and get the 50-50s."
Winning the loose balls was something the Winfield players did the entire game.
"I think we outplayed them," Foster said. "We had way more opportunities on goal than they did."
The win went beyond the rankings. This was about how important it is to defeat the Big Reds, who Winfield hadn't defeated since 2004.
"That's a great win for us," Foster said.
"They are always a good team (and) beating them was a pretty good goal this year," said Boggs, who was in elementary school the last time Winfield beat Parkersburg. "It's a huge step, a big confidence builder."
Taylor put Winfield up 2-0 at the 34:52 mark of the second half. Garrett Kruger kept the Big Reds' hopes alive with an unassisted score just two minutes later.
Preston Sheldon gave the Generals some breathing room with an unassisted scored with 24:54 remaining.
Boggs finished with six saves and Strobl 11.
Winfield faces another tough test Thursday when ninth-ranked South Charleston (5-3-0) visits.