It’s not the way the Pioneers wanted to go out. Stone Memorial was Warren County’s semifinal opponent in the District 6AAA Tournament on Tuesday night and these two teams went at each other the entire 80 minutes.
In the last meeting between the two, Stone Memorial struck first but Warren County worked its way back into the lead and held on for the win. This time the Panthers struck first, but there would not be an epic comeback and the Pioneers were defeated 2-0.
Warren County outshot Stone Memorial 17-8 but the Pioneers had the most trouble finding the back of the net.
It was a grueling match as several players were helped from the field. Stone Memorial was pumped and seemed to have the advantage from an enthusiasm standpoint.
In the opening few minutes, a goal was made by Warren County but was not scored because of a foul that went against the Pioneers. Stone Memorial came right back down the field catching the Pioneers by surprise with a shot that went just wide of the Pioneer goal.
The ball stayed near midfield for quite some time during the first half. Pioneer defenders Richard Gonzalez and Benito Mirafuentes were very busy in the first half as the Panthers were relentless in their pursuit of the ball.
On the offensive end, Cole Millard and Ethan Bandy controlled the ball, but the Panthers had the corners covered and Evan Reynolds and Fernando Goana were not a factor in the first half.
With the game nearing the halfway point in the first half, Stone Memorial got behind the defense and the Pioneer goalie was the only one to beat and the Panther shot found the back of the net with 19:20 to play in the first half. Stone Memorial led Warren County 1-0.
Warren County had work to do and the level of physical play went up after the Panther goal. Warren County pushed the tempo and the Pioneers found their way down the field. Several crossing shots went over the intended player or found their way behind the net.
A couple of last-ditch efforts as the half approached sent a barrage of shots into the net behind the goal and Stone Memorial held the Pioneers scoreless as the whistle blew to sound the end to the first half. Pioneer goalie J.D. Keele defended against four shots on goal during the first half with only one finding its way to the back of the net.
In the second half the Panthers came out on the attack and just 3:15 into the second half a Panther slipped behind the defense for a second time and with just the goalie between him and the Pioneer goal, Stone Memorial blasted the back of the net with its second score and the Panthers took a 2-0 lead.
It was an early blow to the Pioneer defense but with almost a full 40-minute half to play, WCHS coach Orion Smith instructed the Pioneers to shake it off and play.
Frustration was not immediate but nearing the halfway point of the second half and firing shot after shot with no result, it started to set in. The Panther defense continued the constant pressure on the ball and continued to harass those in the midfielder position.
The WCHS defense was back to work in the second half as Abraham Pumarino, Zach Murray, Jakob Morin did a better job and the defense allowed only five shots on goal throughout the remainder of the half.
Unfortunately for Warren County time became a factor and with five minute remaining you could see a sense of urgency as the play and the tempo had picked back up for the Pioneers after they looked flat-footed midway through the second half.
Reynolds and Goana pushed the ball in deep but it seemed the Panthers had the box loaded with defenders and the rebound was kicked out immediately. Juan Casas would drive the ball back across midfield and pass the ball back to a waiting Pioneer for a shot. Millard had a brief look that went wide. Goana on several occasions had to fend off three defenders, he got a brief look but could not find the back of the net.
Stone Memorial started to sense the win and continued to encourage each other to play to the end. The Panthers played every second and at the final whistle Stone Memorial defeated Warren County by a final score of 2-0 in the District 6AAA semifinal game to end the Pioneer postseason.