CHARLESTON - Success in the semifinals of the Class AAA boys state soccer tournament is something Parkersburg doesn't want to ever waver from.
Tuesday night at Schoenbaum Soccer Complex, the second-ranked Big Reds kept their record intact and improved to 9-0 in matches leading up the championship after defeating George Washington, 1-0.
Next up for PHS (17-3-4) is a date with top-ranked Hurricane (22-0-1), which shut out Hedgesville, 4-0, in the first semifinal match. The two finalists met in a regular-season finale and played to a 1-1 tie at Hurricane.
Today's championship is scheduled to begin 45 minutes following the completion of the Class AAA girls championship match, which begins at 10 a.m.
"Hurricane is loaded," said PHS head coach Don Fosselman, who is one win away from securing a seventh state title for the program. "They are so talented at every position. They are like an all-star team.
"We played them tough the first time, but we have to play better than we did (tonight against George Washington). I don't know if we played our best game tonight - we played good enough to win, but possession will have to improve 100 percent. We have to try and keep the ball out of their hands a little bit."
Garrett Kruger's goal on an assist from Evan Rhodes with 7:57 remaining in the first half proved to be the game-winner. After Rhodes sent the pass into the box, the ball was batted around several times before Kruger gathered it in and from point blank range rifled the shot past GW keeper Garrett Phillips and into the left side of the net.
The lone goal of the match occurred moments after PHS keeper Reid Strobl snuffed out a potentially-dangerous situation on the opposite side of the field when George Washington's Garrett Warner nearly headed in a corner kick from teammate Daniel Glines. Instead, Warner's shot on goal was gathered in chest-high by Strobl.
Strobl made several crowd-pleasers. But the one attempt he didn't convert turned out to be the result of an indirect kick which wasn't touched while finding its way to the back of the net.
Midway into the second half, after the official whistled a PHS defender for a foul, GW's Drew Davis placed the ball on the turf some 30 yards away from the net and whistled the kick above the outstretched arms of Strobl.
GW players immediately celebrated what they thought was a goal, but it was waved off because officials indicated it did not touch anything in its path.
"I thought a direct kick was indicated," GW head coach Tom Hopper said. "We even thought it touched a hand at some point. It's a judgment call."
Strobl insisted afterwards that he never laid a hand on the ball.
"Thank goodness that linesman knew it was an indirect kick," Fosselman said. "He's my best friend now."
GW's last gasp with the clock stopped at the 16 seconds left in regulation involved Davis once again, but this time his shot attempt from just outside the box went wide right.
"Hats off to our guys for maintaining that one-goal lead," Fosselman said. "We had to play with our backs against the wall a little bit.
"We made a tactical decision to prevent (George Washington's Noah Miller) from scoring. We did that knowing the risk it would have on possession, but it worked out well."
PHS avenged a 3-0 loss at George Washington back on Sept. 4 and eliminated last year's state champion from the field holding a 16-6-2 record.
The Big Reds now meet a Hurricane squad which has outscored opponents 105-14 this season.
"It was a physical-type game the first we played them," PHS defender Tyler Broadwater said. "It's important that all 11 guys on the field work together."