Runyon, Parkersburg battle past Wheeling Park

Wheeling Park's James Hofmann, right, moves with the ball as Parkersburg's Jonathan Mason closes in during Tuesday's game at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Big Reds won, 3-2. Photo by Josh Strope

WHEELING — Wheeling Park had a game plan against No. 2 Parkersburg and for the most part, that worked. What they didn’t have was an answer for Big Reds midfielder Matt Runyon.

The senior — who has a 40-yard throw-in — used that weapon to put Parkersburg (13-1-3) in prime scoring chances, including setting up the game-winner as the Big Reds escaped Wheeling Island Stadium with a 3-2 victory Tuesday.

“No one in the state can throw the ball like he can and it is an offensive weapon,” Parkersburg coach Don Fosselman said. “He leads the team with 15 assists and most of them come off his throws. It is a great throw.”

Wheeling Park coach Mario Julian has been around a long time. Runyon even opened his eyes.

“We knew we were going to struggle against their throw-in. I’ve never seen one like that,” Julian said. “It gave us all kind of problems.

“He is throwing the ball 40 yards and they had a couple guys taller than us. The ones we did get to we had poor clearances. The third goal, I don’t even think the initial shot was going in and we headed it back toward the middle.”

That third and deciding goal came in the 71st minute after Wheeling Park (5-6-5) had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to even the score.

Runyon took a throw-in deep in Patriots territory and into the heavily populated goal box. The thrown-in went over just about everyone and when Park couldn’t clear it, the ball came to Ian Domenick, who buried a shot past Patriots netminder Zach Calvert for a 3-2 victory.

It was a heartbreaking setback for the Patriots, who found themselves down 2-0 in the 44th minute following Isaiah Owen’s goal. Calvert made a diving save on a point-blank shot by Parker Miller and was out of position and unable to stop Owen’s shot.

The Big Reds struck first in the 11th minute as a Runyon throw-in into the goal box drew Calvert out to make the save. Unfortunately, a Patriots defender accidentally headed it backward and into the empty net for an own goal.

Despite a 2-0 hole after Owen’s goal, the Patriots stuck to their game plan and kept coming. Wheeling Park had numerous chances to dent the scoreboard in the first half, but shots that went wide and excellent saves by Big Reds goalie Sam Potts kept them scoreless.

That changed in the 46th minute as Chris Romanek took a pas from James Hofmann and buried it far side past Potts.

Wheeling Park found the equalizer in the 60th minute as freshman Andrew Glass chased down a long pass near the goal line and sent a perfect cross to Tino Kayafas, who finished the play and evened the score.

“We felt very confident coming into this game with how we have been playing lately,” Julian said. “We played the No. 1, 2, 3 teams in the state now and played them all to one-goal games. We need to find ways to take that next step and beat them. I thought after we tied it, we were going to win it. We kept putting pressure with some corner balls. We had three or four scoring chances.

“Our kids played really well. We moved the ball really well and we had some opportunities. We slowed the paced up and possessed it and tried to get it behind their defense and for the most part we did that.”

Two yellow cards to Anthony Fleshman put the Big Reds down a man for the 5:33. Wheeling Park had golden opportunities as Romanek’s cross to Louis Aulick went just wide, as did Glass’ to a the goal mouth before the Big Reds were able to clear it.

“I give all the credit to Wheeling Park, they played so well,” Fosselman said. “We didn’t play like the No. 2-ranked team in the state and I attribute that to Wheeling Park. We have the talent and we won that game because they were determined to win and they played determined. That is what I like about this team”