Irvin leads Crusaders to third straight OVAC title

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM — The Catholic Central boys soccer team celebrates its third consecutive OVAC Class 1A/3A championship after defeating Linsly on Saturday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Three was the number of the day for the Steubenville Catholic Central boys on Saturday as senior Mikey Irvin scored three goals to led the Crusaders to a 4-1 win over Linsly at Red Devil Stadium in St. Clairsville to take the OVAC Class 1A/3A championship for a third year in a row.

“It’s a special feeling,” Central coach Steve Kopcha said of the threepeat. “Believe me, it’s something that we don’t take lightly. We’re very fortunate that we had this opportunity today.”

Irvin factored in to all four Central (10-2) goals, and junior goalkeeper Travis Shore made 15 saves.

“He’s one of our senior leaders,” Kopcha said. “We rely on him as well as a few others to score some goals, and he was feeling it today. We’re glad that he was able to come through and help us get this big win today.

“(Shore) came up with some great saves. They had a lot of possession and created a lot of good chances for themselves. We were fortunate that our keeper was on his game because they definitely had some chances.”

Linsly (11-4) opened the scoring with a goal from sophomore Alvaro Ramirez in the fourth minute, but Central answered right back in the seventh minute with Irvin’s first, directing a shot from senior Joe Kuebler past Linsly netminder Chaz Gaphery (seven saves) to even the score at 1-1.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Irvin said. “It was a team effort; it wasn’t just me. It was such a great game. It was amazing to be a part of it.”

Neither side got much of anything going the rest of the half, and the game remained tied after 40 minutes.

Linsly came out strong to start the second half, but Shore had the answers and kept the game tied until his teammates took control of the game with two goals in a span of 31 seconds.

Irvin connected from in close for his second, which proved to be the game-winner in the 52nd minute. He then assisted on sophomore Tom Beigel’s goal in the 53rd minute to make it a 3-1 Central advantage just like that.

“I got a good ball from Joe Kuebler and just kind of took and dribbled into space,” Irvin said. “I took a left-footer and placed it where I wanted to place it. It’s extremely exciting. My first year we lost, but getting it back the past three years has just been amazing.”

After the quick goals, frustration started to set in for the Cadets. Despite putting the pressure on most of the second half, the could not find a way to get anything past Shore.

“We definitely controlled the second half,” Linsly coach Greg Martin said. “They counter so well. They did that to us last year, too. They are very efficient with their goal scoring. We created enough chances to make this a game; we just didn’t put them away. I think our emotions just got the best of us when those goals went in. We just didn’t get switched back on and refocused.”

Irvin completed the hat trick in the 69th minute, giving the Crusaders the 4-1 win.

Central is back in regular season action on Tuesday when it travels to Wheeling Central, then Linsly will get another shot at the Crusaders on Thursday at Linsly.