LOGAN, Ohio — Even for a fiery personality like Richard Isberner, emotions clearly moved on him on Tuesday night.
That’s because the second-year Gallia Academy High School soccer coach had a difficult time speaking following the Blue Devils’ 4-0 loss to Fairfield Union in a Division II district semifinal at Logan Chieftain Stadium.
But Tuesday’s tournament tilt — and defeat — wasn’t just an ordinary outcome loss for the Blue Devils.
It unfortunately ended the program’s best season in school history, which concludes with an 11-6-1 record —and second consecutive Division II sectional championship.
“It’s tough right now,” said Isberner. “I always feel I have room to do more for them (Blue Devils), and tonight I couldn’t find any room. I feel sorry for my kids because they deserve a better ending that what happened tonight. All nine of the seniors are great kids. It’s hard to find the words to describe my feelings for these kids right now. The parents joke with me because I call them ‘my kids’ in the paper. But I love them like they are my own kids and my own family.”
Isberner and the Blue Devils shouldn’t feel shame in falling to the Falcons — the defending Division II district champions.
Fairfield Union controlled the match from the opening kick to the final whistle, and got two goals off 10 shots in each half.
The Falcons also blanked the Blue Devils in corner kicks 7-0, and stymied Gallia Academy to only four second-half shot attempts.
Isaiah Lester, who ended his stellar senior season with 34 official goals, had the best scoring opportunity for the Blue Devils —but his shot with 13:44 remaining was snatched by a leaping Nathaniel Castle for Fairfield Union.
Lester had two shots for GAHS, with one apiece by Jacob Ratliff and Madi Oiler.
“We expected a tough opponent like that and they (Falcons) are a great team. They controlled the game and deserved the result. We didn’t have a great performance. It is what it is, but unfortunately it was the last game of the season,” said Isberner.
In fact, it was the only contest all season in which the Blue Devils were shut out.
The Falcons’ first goal came only three minutes and 22 seconds into the match, when Brandin Moeller got a blast beyond Gallia Academy goalkeeper Caden Wilt.
Fairfield Union applied pressure the entire half as the overwhelming majority was played in the Falcons’ offensive third — as Hayden Price put the second goal on the board with 24:10 to go.
Wilt was fired upon all evening, as he was credited with four first-half saves.
Although Gallia Academy generated more offense in the second half, Taylor’s Sloan’s two goals in a span of four minutes and 54 seconds made it 4-0 with 12:42 left to play.
The match marked the final for nine Blue and White seniors, which were also part of the shared Ohio Valley Conference championship —the first league title in the program’s history.
The seniors include Lester, Ratliff, Oiler, Wilt, Colton Fallon, Ben Rutherford, Brycen Caudill, Nathanael Riddle and Drew Hall.
“I’m lucky and thankful to have the group of kids I have. I would not trade my kids for another team. The parents trusted me to be able to do my job and work with them and teach them,” said Isberner. “Great group of nine seniors especially.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106