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Riders on the storm

Weir fights through weather, blanks Oak Glen

TRACKING IT DOWN — Weir High’s Hunter Hildreth and Oak Glen’s Jonathan Snyder peruse the ball before the rains hit during Thursday’s Class A/AA sectional semifinal match at Jimmy Carey Stadium. -- Andrew Grimm

WEIRTON — For most of Thursday’s Class A/AA Region 1, Section 1 match, Weir High had two opponents to contend with — Oak Glen and the weather.

The weather succeeded in cutting the match short by a few minutes, but the top-seeded Red Riders also prevailed over the No. 4 seed Golden Bears, 6-0, to advance to Saturday’s sectional final.

“It was good,” Weir High coach Matt Kopp said of winning what was the Red Riders tournament opener. “I actually think we still have room grow and some things to fix. The weather, it was difficult, it affected the game.

“Overall, I’m glad to be back (at home), glad to have another game with the full team together and see them combined again after not having the full team at Park (Weir’s lone loss of the season in the regular season finale last week).

“This felt way more normal than we’ve felt the past two weeks.”

With Weir High up 2-0 in the 53rd minute, the rain started to fall. As the players were taking the field after halftime, parents’ and fans’ cell phones could be heard ringing with the unmistakable sound of severe weather alerts, as some of the area had a Tornado warning.

The first 20-plus minutes of the second half was played in a torrential downpour and howling wind, raining so hard when the Riders (15-1-2) fifth goal was scored, the PA announcer – nor Kopp – could see well enough to know who had scored it initially.

The match, however, was not stopped at any point during the monsoon, but rather after the skies had calmed for a distant flash of lightning with 4:01 remaining. After some discussion and about 10 minutes of the mandatory 30-minute delay, the officials decided to make the game official.

“I’m really glad it wasn’t in a 0-0 game where we had to really think of every touch and every pass,” Kopp said of the downpour. “I know how cold it was on the sideline, I can only imagine what it was like on the field trying to run around and see and everything else.

“We were just trying not to get scored on in those moments. The weather was crazy, I’ve never seen rain like that in a game that didn’t get stopped.”

Antonio Pittman was the scorer of the fifth goal, and two others, leading the way with a hattrick. His second and third goals came in the rain in the second half, one of which was on a penalty kick.

“He was the man of the match for us,” Kopp said.

He opened the scoring exactly one minute into the game, then Mattia Molendi connected in the 16th minute to make it 2-0.

Oak Glen (4-12-1) keeper Michael Maxwell, who the Golden Bears had credited for better than 20 saves, was able to hold the Riders at bay until after the break.

In addition to Pittman’s two goals in the second half, Hunter Hildreth (48th minute) and Jacob Morgan (69th minute) also found the back of the net for Weir High after halftime.

“We have so many players that can step up in the moment,” Kopp said. “It is exciting to see a team so talented have a chance at so much. Anything can happen, we can lose to anyone at any given moment, but we can also beat anybody.”

SENIOR FARWELL

Oak Glen coach Jaison Polly’s program departs 10 seniors. Of those 10, just four of which were able to play on Thursday due to injuries.

The 10 are Andrew Giambroni, Torrin Smith, Evan Longston, Andrew Snyder, Xavier Russell, Maxwell, Hayden Clunk, Mason Wilson, Cam O’Connor and Spence Wilson.

For Polly, who had coached many of them for a long time, it was a bittersweet ending.

“It’s a tough way for it to end,” he said. “It is going to be real tough to replace them having 19 fully rostered and losing 10. We’re going to need some new kids coming up to play.

“A lot of them I have had since they were little, so this is kind of full circle for me, starting with them and now ending high school and letting them go on to college. Some of them are already verbally committed to colleges.

“As a coach, seeing them young and seeing them later on is an honor to see them go that far.”

MOVING ON

Weir High advances to play No. 2 seed Wheeling Central for the sectional title Saturday in what will be a rematch of one of the Red Riders’ closest games of the season.

Weir edged the Maroon Knights, 3-2, on Oct. 5 to keep its bid for a perfect regular season alive. Due to quarantine shutdowns, that was the last game the Riders played before Tuesday with the full team available and the last game before their lone loss of the season at Wheeling Park last week with a limited roster.

“We’re confident,” Kopp said. “We know they can beat us, but we know we can beat them. Coming off our 6-0 win like this doesn’t hurt our belief in that.”

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