POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Some things are simply worth the wait.
After 27 years since its last appearance at the state tournament, the Point Pleasant boys soccer program is headed back to the promise land following a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Scott in the Class AA-A Region IV championship match on Sunday at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field in Mason County.
The Black Knights (14-4-4) notched the program’s third regional championship since establishing a varsity boys team back in 1986, which eventually led to state appearances previously in 1989 and 1993.
PPHS has never won a game at the state tournament level, but will get another crack at changing things on Friday night when the Red and Black face Charleston Catholic in a Class AA-A semifinal at Carter Field in Beckley. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Point Pleasant — which served as the guests in this contest due to Scott being the higher overall seed in Region IV — dodged a few bullets in the opening half, but also managed to miss the target on a few opportunities of their own while building up to a climactic scoreless game with 20 minutes left in regulation.
Then, with 16:16 remaining in the second half, the Black Knights made the most of a golden opportunity — and it ended up making all the difference.
PPHS had a corner kick and delivered a pass about 18 yards out in front of the Scott goal. Braxton Watkins-Lovejoy managed to beat the SHS keeper to the ball, but the ball deflected off of another Skyhawk player.
The ball caromed to the left of Watkins-Lovejoy, who then chased after the loose ball and managed to dive forward with his foot and make contact before the Scott keeper could either get to the ball or get back in position to stop the shot attempt.
With Watkins-Lovejoy watching his effort-filled shot from his back, the senior quickly hopped up and celebrated mere moments after the shot hit the net — giving PPHS a 1-0 advantage through roughly 64 minutes of play.
At the time, it was only Point’s ninth shot of the game — and fourth on goal. Yet, by night’s end, it was the only shot of the night that mattered. The Black Knights ultimately claimed a 12-11 edge in shot attempts, including a 6-4 edge in shots on goal.
It was the 10th shutout recorded by Point Pleasant this season, including its fourth consecutive shutout during this postseason run through the Region IV tournament.
The Skyhawks (13-1-1) — who defeated PPHS by a 4-1 count to open the regular season back on Sept. 2 — were shut out for the first time all year in their only setback of the 2020 campaign.
The rough-and-tumble game featured 28 fouls, including six yellow cards and a pair of red cards. Scott was whistled for 19 fouls, four yellow cards and received both red cards — the last of which came with 1:25 left in regulation.
The Black Knights also took all eight corner kicks attempted in the contest.
Afterwards, fifth-year PPHS coach Chip Wood spoke about the significance of the win — particularly for a program that hasn’t appeared at the state tournament since Bill Clinton was in his first term as President of the United States.
“I’m just extremely proud of these young men and the coaching staff for everything that went into making today what it is,” Wood said. “We put a plan together and the guys executed everything that we wanted to do today. I have zero complaints about our effort today because this one was just so big for our program.
“I played on this first team that went to state in 1989 and we haven’t been back to state since 1993. As the head coach on and off of this program for a dozen seasons, it just seems like we’ve been chasing this goal forever. After everything we’ve dealt with this year, it sure feels nice to be back in this spot after all of this time.”
Opportunities were at a premium in a scoreless first half as Scott outshot the guests by a 5-3 overall margin, including a 3-1 edge in shots on goal. PPHS also received the only yellow card in the first half.
Things became even more intense after the intermission, with defenseman Nate Smith receiving consecutive yellow cards over a five minute stretch for illegal tackles. Smith’s second yellow turned into a red card and left the Skyhawks a man short over the final 25 minutes of regulation.
A small scuffle broke out during a sideline stoppage of play, which resulted in each team picking up its second different yellow card of the game a few moments later.
Then, with 18:02 left in regulation, Scott was called for a foul that resulted in Adam Veroski — Point’s all-time leading goal scorer — attempting a penalty kick. Veroski’s shot was hauled in by Scott keeper Kadin Clemon, keeping the game tied at all zeroes.
Watkins-Lovejoy followed with the game’s only score less than two minutes later, and then it became a game of time management. The Skyhawks produced only one shot on goal in the second half and six shots total after the break, while PPHS managed nine shot attempts after the intermission.
Luke Pinkerton stopped four shots in goal for the Black Knights while earning the shutout win. Clemon made saves on five shot attempts in the setback.
Now the focus turns to having five days to prepare for the Class AA-A state tournament in Beckley. Though the high was pretty high as of Sunday, Wood knows that his troops won’t be satisfied with just getting there.
As he noted, there is still plenty of history out there waiting to be made — and the next slice of it could possibly be just 80 minutes away.
“We have to go compete next week with three really good soccer teams. We’ll enjoy this for now, but we still have business to take care of,” Wood said. “We obviously belong there after a win like this and we want two more games. We’ve never played in a state final, so Friday really is important to us as another step toward a bigger goal. These guys will be ready to play, no doubt.”
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.