With just over a minute remaining, Talawanda senior Gabe Rowan took a corner kick from junior Andrew Jarvi and headed the ball into the net for the final goal in a 6-0 postseason tournament victory over Belmont Monday night, Oct. 18. That gave the boys’ soccer team a ticket to a second-round game at Springboro Thursday, Oct. 21.
The Braves led 2-0 at halftime and struggled at times against Belmont, a first-year soccer program, but blew the game open with four goals in just over 16 minutes at the end of the game.
Rowan’s goal was special for several reasons, even though it was not a factor in the final result. It was his first goal of the season and, with a new high school set to open next year, Monday’s game marked the final boys’ soccer game on Bowers Field and so Rowan netted team’s last soccer goal ever to be scored there.
Coach Reed Maltbie said it was special for the senior because he has been trying all year to score a goal and keeping a positive attitude about the effort.
“All season, Gabe’s worked his tail off and kept telling us, ‘I’m going to score tonight,’ and now he has the last goal on this field,” Maltbie said.
For Rowan, the experience was “overwhelming.”
“I’m a senior. It’s my last game on this field. It feels good to finally get a goal,” he said. “It’s been a good four years. I don’t want it to end.”
The blowout win was some vindication for the disappointment of a 2-0 loss last Saturday, Oct. 16, which dropped the Braves to second place in the final standings of the Fort Ancient Valley Conference West Division. Talawanda hosted the Ross Rams Saturday in the final regular-season game with both teams in a virtual tie for the title.
Ross finished 6-1-0 in the division and the Braves 5-1-1 to take second place in the FAVC West.
“It was hard. It was a letdown,” Maltbie said of the loss. “We had set goals to win the West and go undefeated in the West. We did not do that, but we also have a goal of getting to the third game in the postseason.”
Monday’s win was the first step toward that goal and Maltbie said he put his team into a firestorm for their second-round game this Thursday. They will play at Springboro in that game, against a team they have not played this year, but which beat them twice last year, including the loss that put the Braves out of last year’s postseason.
“We played them close (in the regular season) and I picked them (in the tournament draw), thinking they were familiar,” the coach said. “This year, when I saw them on the board, I just wanted to play them again. This is a different team. We lost to Ross, but we have the heart of a champion.”
Senior Austin Haidet scored the next-to-last goal in the game and on Bowers Field with 5:40 to go in the game Monday and said it “felt great.”
It was a picture-perfect effort, too. Haidet brought the ball down the field and…
“I was thinking about whether to pass the ball or go for it and just decided to take the shot (at the last second),” he said. “It chipped over (the goalkeeper’s) hands.”
Talawanda led 2-0 at halftime on goals by junior Kody Wilhelm on an assist by junior Prosper Rumano and by junior Kyle Engle, off of a feed from senior Alex Thyen.
“We started off flat but we picked it up after the first goal,” Haidet said. “In the first half, we held together.”
Coach Maltbie agreed.
“Belmont is a new program. They are a first-year team, but a talented team,” the Talawanda coach said. “This is their first year playing together and there is some skill out there.”
When the Braves found their groove the blowout was underway.
They got a second-half score by senior Bill Moloney, off of a pass from junior Kody Wilhelm with 17:17 left in the game and freshman Aaron Kawamura scored to make it 4-0 with 11:32 left to play.
That set the stage for Haidet’s goal with 5:40 left and Rowan’s with 1:11 to go.
Even though Maltbie is looking for a measure of revenge for last year’s tournament ouster and achieving at least one of this year’s team goals in Thursday’s game at Springboro, no one is taking the game lightly. Talawanda goes in as the number 12 seed and Springboro number 4.
Haidet said that they got away with playing flat for a while Monday, but cannot do that again.
“At Springboro, we can’t play flat,” he said. “This will be a tough match for us.”