MCCONNELLSBURG >> Revenge was dealt Friday night when Fannett-Metal upset its undefeated rival McConnellsburg by a score of 3-1 in a wet and chilly Sideling Hill League grudge match.
Both boys soccer teams are having a successful year – McConnellsburg was nurturing an 11-game win streak to open the season and Fannett-Metal entered on a seven-game win streak. The teams had met earlier in the season with the Spartans winning, 3-0.
"Honestly, I think we're kind of relieved now that we've got our first loss," McConnellsburg coach Cory Houck said, "I was hoping someone would man up and beat us because I didn't want to roll into playoffs not having lost. Better to lose now than lose in the first round of playoffs."
Fannett-Metal coach Greg Best said, "Our defense came up big slowing down their high-octane offense."
The game was slowed down by many fouls, leading to multiple free kicks.
McConnellsburg started the game strong, held off the attacks of the Tigers, and took a 1-0 lead 18 minutes into the game on a beautiful header by senior Jake Boehme.
However, the tide seemed to turn only four minutes later when Fannett-Metal was awarded a penalty kick because of a handball ruling in McConnellsburg's box. Junior Mikell McGee stepped up and launched the ball into the corner of the net, and from there on, the momentum was clearly in Fannett-Metal's favor.
For the rest of the game the Tigers seemed to be first to every loose ball and win most of the 50-50 balls that came up. In the second half F-M bombarded McConnellsburg keeper Hunter Souders with 10 shots. Most of the shots came on fast-break attacks when the Spartan defenders were on their heels.
Souders did a great job of keeping the score 1-1 until Fannett-Metal's Layton Hoffmann sent a corner kick curling around the post and right into the goal 11 minutes into the second half. A few minutes later F-M scored again to lead 3-1 on a fastbreak goal by McGee, this time assisted by Kolby Hammond.
After the final whistle, Fannett-Metal's bench erupted in celebration, showing how much the game meant for them.
Best said, "It's a great win; we'll enjoy it. We practiced all week on keeping our confidence and you could really tell throughout the game that we were the aggressor,"
The highlight of the game came near the middle of the second half when McConnellsburg lined up to take a penalty kick that would've given the Spartans momentum. But F-M goalkeeper Jamie Birgfeld provided two outstanding saves, diving to deflect the initial kick of Jake Boehme and then somehow managing to block the rebound shot by Boehme with his legs, clearing the ball.
"I was on cloud nine," a grinning Birgfeld said. "That was probably the save of my high school career and I'm glad that it helped us get the win."
The game wasn't all negative for McConnellsburg. The loss helped the Spartans identify a few key elements they need to work on looking toward a possible rematch in the postseason. The team hadn't been behind yet in a game the entire season, which seemed to affect their response to being down a goal.
First half — (M) Jake Boehme, asst. Nic Culler, 18th min., (FM) Mikell McGee, penalty kick, 12th.
Second half — (FM) Layton Hoffmann, corner kick, 51st, (FM) McGee, asst. Kolby Hammond, 64th.
Shots — FM 14, McC 10; Corner kicks — FM 2, McC 8; Saves — FM 9 (Jamie Birgfeld), McC 10 (Hunter Souders).