A shot in the dark: A shot in the dark

Published 12:54 am Saturday, October 29, 2022

St. Joseph Flyers’ Wesley Neal (19) uses a header to get the ball past a Lucasville Valley player during Wednesday’s Division 3 soccer district semifinal. The Flyers won a shootout 3-2 and play Saturday against Wheelersburg in the district title game. (Photo by Tim Gearhart)

By Jim Walker


WAVERLY — The late, great ventriloquist puppeteer Shari Lewis introduced “The Song That Never Ends” during one of her shows. In fact, it also includes the words “it just goes on and on my friend.”

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Wednesday night in the Division 3 district soccer semifinals, players, coaches and fans were beginning to think it was the game that never ends.

After two halves and two overtimes and the score tied 3-3, the St. Joseph Flyers won the shootout 3-2 over the Lucasville Valley Indians and earned a berth in the district finals on Saturday.

“We are so proud of each and every one of our players for developing as leaders, teammates and genuinely good people,” said Flyers’ coach Mike Balestra.

“The character showed tonight. They fought and battled all night against all kinds of adversity. It was a great effort.”

Zachary Johnson — who had a hat-trick by scoring all 3 for the Flyers — made a penalty kick and the team’s second leading scorer Landon Rowe also made a penalty kick.

But it was defenseman Bryson “Smokey” Burcham who stepped up on offense with the third and deciding penalty kick goal that gave the Flyers the win.

St. Joseph (14-4-1) will face Wheelersburg who blanked Lynchburg Clay 4-0 in the first game.

The win proved the third time is the charm for the Flyers who lost two tough decisions to Valley (9-5-1) in the regular season, 5-4 and 2-1. After the Flyers won two straight SOC titles, Valley had beaten the Flyers four straight times and have won the SOC the past two years.

“I’m glad we finally got this monkey off our back,” said Balestra with a sigh of relief. “Valley has narrowly beat us the last four games we’ve played. Valley is a very good team and after we went up 2-0, they came storming back to take a 3-2 lead.”

Johnson scored goals with assists from Rowe and Brady “Quinn” Medinger to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead.

Jaylen Bender then scored to get Valley within 2-1 at the half.

Valley struck quickly to begin the second half as J.R. Hollbrook tied the game in the opening minutes and then Colt Buckle scored to put the Indians ahead for the first time.

But with four minutes to play, Johnson got a pass from Burcham and came through with a clutch shot that found the back of the net to tie the game.

After a pair of 15-minute overtime periods, the game went to a shootout. Johnson, Rowe and Burcham all converted their attempts and Flyers’ goalkeeper Evan Balestra — had 19 saves — then hadsaves 2 on Valley’s 4 penalty kick attempts to preserve the win.

St. Joseph 2 1 0 0 = 3

Lucas. Valley 1 2 0 0 = 3

St. Joseph won shootout, 3-2

First Half

SJ — Zachary Johnson (assist Landon Rowe)

SJ — Zachary Johnson (assist Brady Medinger)

LV — Jaylen Bender

Second Half

LV – J.R. Holbrook

LV — Colt Buckle

SJ — Zachary Johnson (assist Bryson Burcham)


St. Joseph: Landon Rowe, Zachary Johnson, Bryson Burcham

Shots: St. Joseph 21, Valley 34. Penalty kick attempts: St. Joseph 4, Valley 4

Shots on Goal: St. Joseph 15, Valley 22

Goalkeeper saves: Evan Balestra, St. Joseph, 19; Chris Queen, Valley, 12

Penalty Kick Saves: Evan Balestra, St. Joseph, 2

Fouls: St. Joseph 9, Valley 11

Offsides: St. Joseph 1, Valley 3

Corner kicks: St. Joseph 10 (Landon Rowe 8, Zachary Johnson 2), Valley 7