As the regular season begins to wind down, the Athens Bulldogs took a big step forward toward a possible strong finish to the year.
Athens earned another quality victory, as it defeated the Unioto Sherman Tanks on Wednesday, 3-0, at Joe Burrow Stadium.
After losing their first two games of the season, the Bulldogs have found their way above the .500 mark at 4-3-2.
Unioto falls to 8-2 on the season, as Athens recorded its first shutout of the year.
It was an all-around solid night for Athens, which is down a couple players due to injury and was led on the night by assistant coach Nick Bohuslawsky.
“We knew they were going to be a good team,” Bohuslawsky said. “We prepped throughout the week. It was our first clean sheet of the season so far, so I’m really happy. The boys played well in all three phases in attack, defense and the midfield. It feels really good to finally turn around the form a little bit and get some results going.”
The Bulldogs’ defense was so strong, that goal keeper Sebastien Arauz rarely had to make a save.
Unioto is led by senior Ethan Kerns, who scored four goals in a win Monday against Zane Trace. He and his Tank teammates were unable to do much against an Athens defensive unit that included Luke Scanlan, Charlie Strohm, Zane Evans and Owen Buckley.
“We really looked for him,” Bohuslawsky said of Kerns. “Tried to close down space and try to make sure we had a couple guys pressuring.”
Athens was the aggressor all night, and the only thing that kept it from breaking through sooner was the play of Unioto goal keeper Micah Geise.
Geise had four saves early in the game, including a flurry of three impressive saves in a row to keep the game scoreless.
Athens would finally get one past the sophomore before halftime. The key sequence started when Donovan O’Malley sent a shot high toward the goal.
The ball ended up going over the net, and the officials ruled that Geise had tipped the ball, giving Athens a corner kick.
Braulio Rosas-Clouse lined up the corner kick and sent the ball sailing toward the net.
The shot tailed toward the goal, and Geise was suddenly forced to try and attempt the save. He was not able to grab the shot, as the ball deflected into the goal off of Geise’s hands.
Unioto coach Brandon Hanes argued that Geise didn’t make contact with O’Malley’s initial shot, feeling the Tanks should have received possession.
His disagreement with the officials grew louder after Rosas-Clouse’s goal, but it didn’t change the fact that Athens led 1-0 with 4:09 left in the first half.
“He’s been great on a lot of corners,” Bohuslawsky said. “We just had a problem connecting in the end. We had many chances right before that, so it was just a matter of time before one went in. I was really proud of the boys for continuing to keep pushing and get that chance.”
Athens quickly added to that lead after halftime.
Andrew Lewis sent a shot toward the net that went off Geise’s hands. Luke Frost was prepared for the rebound, sending the follow through into the net for a 2-0 lead.
There was still 37:16 on the clock, but the two-goal lead felt insurmountable the way Athens was controlling possession and playing defense.
“We knew that if we got one early, we could keep getting more and keep dictating the play,” Bohuslawsky said.
Lewis played a big role in the Bulldogs’ win, as the senior was seemingly everywhere on the pitch. He was able to net his own goal by the end of the night.
Lewis attacked toward Geise, and was taken down from behind. He lined up a penalty kick and sent the ball to the lower right of the net for a goal, and a 3-0 lead with 14:32 remaining.
“I would say this is probably the best game he’s had,” Bohuslawsky said. “It was a lot of stuff on the ground, playing our game. He fed everybody on the field, spread the ball around, took his chances and it’s overall a great performance from him.”
Athens was able to sub in plenty of players as the second half wore on, closing out the three-goal victory.
The Bulldogs, who also own a big win over Alexander, have proven they still have the pieces to potentially make a run in the Division II Southeast District tournament. They’ll travel to Parkersburg South on Saturday for a noon start.
”It was big that we had some younger guys step up for us and gave us a performance like that,” Bohuslawsky said. “It was really helpful because we have a deep roster and we can use a lot of people and it’s just a great momentum builder to carry on. If we keep getting some wins, keep getting some results, we’ll be good for tournament.”