LUCASVILLE — Wheelersburg junior Christian Hughes and senior Ethan McCain were on fire on Tuesday evening. Not even a surprise second-half rain shower could cool them off.
Hughes scored four goals and recorded three assists, while McCain added three goals of his own as the Pirates routed Valley 7-2 at the Valley High School athletic complex.
Early on, the Indians (2-2) put a bit of a scare into Wheelersburg, thanks to the play of senior Bryce Romanello. Just minutes into the contest, he won a deep jump ball near midfield, beat two defenders and took the ball near the Wheelersburg goal. However, his shot went wide of the net.
Shortly after, Romanello had another chance at a goal, but his header was saved by Wheelersburg goalie Zack Jordan.
“You have to know where (Romanello) is at all times,” Wheelersburg soccer coach Jon Estep said. “We didn’t know where he was in the first half.”
Though Valley and Romanello controlled play early on in the contest, it was Wheelersburg (3-0) that found the back of the net first. Eleven minutes into the contest, McCain dribbled the ball near the end line deep to the left of Valley keeper Alex Gahm. He sent a quick pass to a streaking Hughes, who sent it home to give the Pirates an early lead.
About ten minutes later, Wheelersburg added two back-breaking goals that occurred just minutes apart. After a long, sustained offensive attack, the Pirates were finally able to double their lead when Ben Allen found an open Hughes, who promptly sent a shot past the Valley keeper. Later, McCain forced a Valley turnover near the Indian goal and put in his second goal unassisted to make it a 3-0 halftime score.
“We came out a little bit slow,” Valley soccer coach Jeremy Duncan said. “Our communication was poor, which leads to our passing being poor. We’ve been working on it for three years and we still haven’t gotten there.”
Though the Indians had dug themselves a huge hole, they caught a break five minutes into the second half when Wheelersburg was called for a handball in the goalie box. Valley was awarded a penalty shot, and Romanello took advantage. He buried the ball in the back of the net and cut the Wheelersburg deficit to 3-1.
But Romanello wouldn’t be in the game much longer. Not long after his penalty kick, he was sent off with a yellow card for disputing what he believed to be a foul call. After a few more words with the official from the sideline, he was shown a second yellow, resulting in a red card an an ejection.
“Bryce got that goal, and he got a little amped up,” Duncan said.
Now playing a man down due to the ejection, the Indians simply could not keep up with the Wheelersburg offense. A few minutes after the ejection, the Pirates once again found themselves near the Valley goal for an extended period of time. This time, Maliek Soumakieh sent a shot toward the goal, which was rejected by Gahm. However, Hughes came in to clean up to give himself a hat trick and Wheelersburg a 4-1 lead.
It didn’t take long for McCain to join Hughes with a hat trick of his own. He scored back-to-back goals for the Pirates, each coming 70 seconds apart to increase the lead to 6-1.
Not to be outdone, Hughes came up with a beauty of a strike later in the half, as he sent a spinning kick nearly 35 yards to the Indian goal to cap the Wheelersburg scoring at seven goals.
“Christian had a big night, his second big night of the season. He’s got a ton of speed and foot skills,” Estep said. “Obviously, McCain runs well with him.”
The game may have been out of reach, but Valley senior Zack Gahm was able to come up with the day’s longest goal, placing a high-arcing shot just under the crossbar from 40 yards out to give the Indians their second goal of the game.
With the win, Wheelersburg is now three-for-three under new their new head coach. Estep, who took over for longtime head coach Paul Boll, will lead his team to Zane Trace on Saturday before the Pirates open conference play at Minford next Tuesday.
“We just have to fix a few minor things and we should be fine,” he said.
As for Valley, they jump in to SOC I play on Thursday when they travel to New Boston.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter