MINFORD — The Athens Bulldogs were on the road Thursday night squaring up against the Minford Falcons, whose record was 10-3.
Although the Falcons are used to outscoring their opponents by several goals, the Bulldogs served up a shutout, winning 1-0.
Coach Jason Schroer summed it by saying, “We played a complete game. Each line did their job.”
The Falcons opened both halves with a strong attack. But with each attack, Bulldogs defenders Ava Kristofco, Julia Dick, Jo Burtuna and Kateyanne Walburn sprinted shoulder-to-shoulder and stride-for-stride, angling the Falcons to the sidelines or forcing them to cross the ball from the corner. The Falcons dished out some threatening crosses that sailed in front of the goal mouth, but they struggled to connect with them.
The sole goal of the game was scored by Bulldogs forward Osha Backus with about 15 minutes left in the first half. The Bulldogs earned a corner kick, which was taken by Tess Wilhelm. It was bobbled by a Falcon defender and retrieved by Backus.
Backus pivoted with the ball and launched it with her left foot. When it ricocheted off another defender, Backus popped it into the back left corner of the net. The Falcons were held to just six shots in the first half.
The Falcons started the second half pushing hard to create an equalizing goal, driving down the left flank and launching a strong shot from 15 yards out. Yet, Bulldogs keeper Kayla Hammonds was poised and ready to punch the ball high over the cross bar to prevent the goal.
Minford continued to fight hard until the buzzer, but Athens midfielders Chloe Clevenger, Tess Wilhelm and Angela Owens were quick with the steals and interceptions. Tess Wilhelm was first to most 50-50 balls, trapping and distributing with efficiency.
Each team had a few break-away moments but it was a dual of the defenses. Although the Falcons outshot the Bulldogs 15-6 in the second half, none of those shots penetrated the pipes.
Walburn described, “It was a hard game. They got a lot of balls down our way, but we communicated well on defense.”
When asked how the defense held off the Falcons, Jo Bertuna said, “it’s about trusting that your teammate is behind you if you fumble; knowing this allows you to attack the ball with confidence.”
This brings the Bulldogs’ record to 5-7-2. On Saturday, they welcome the Wheelersburg Pirates to Joe Burrow stadium for a 2 p.m. start.