BECKLEY - Washington has played from behind in most of its games this season, so despite trailing 1-0 at halftime to undefeated and nationally ranked Wheeling Park, it had Park right where it wanted.
The Jefferson County Patriots scored two quick goals in the second half and dominated the final 40 minutes against the Region One champions en route to a 2-1 upset victory in the semifinals of the West Virginia Class AAA Soccer Tournament on Friday at Cline Field.
''We knew they were undefeated,'' Washington coach Kevin Robins said. ''We knew coming in that they were a tremendous team and nationally ranked. To be honest, though, they were who we wanted to play. I never would have said that before the game. We wanted to play the best.''
Wheeling Park’s Josh Garrett, left, and Washington’s Cody O'Meara, battle for a head ball Friday in Beckley.
Washington will play George Washington, a 1-0 winner against Hurricane, in today's title game.
Daniel Bouchoc scored the game-winner in the 57th minute, a perfect through ball from Kris Robins that found the junior as he got behind the defense and buried it past a charging Park goalie Cameron Allen.
''We changed our formation from the last time we played them and that helped us with our runs,'' Coach Robins said. ''We worked with Daniel making that overlapping run and getting into space because Kris, in my opinion, is one of the best in the state at putting the ball on the feet.''
Wheeling Park (19-1-3) trailed in the regular season against Washington before rallying for a 4-3 victory. This time it was a much different story.
Coach Mario Julian's squad mustered one shot in the second half, a header by Errin Baynes shortly after Washington tied the score.
Wheeling Park started with the same fire it has all season and scored in the 10th minute on a crossing pass from Baynes to Kyle George that beat Washington goalie Alden Roth.
Park put two more balls in the Washington net but both were called back by offsides.
The momentum shifted toward Washington, starting with a goal 4:53 into the second half. A cross by Bouchoc found the foot of Myles Newhouse, who flipped the deflection over Allen.
''The first goal really brought us down as team,'' Allen said. ''We don't get a lot of goals scored against us. The beginning of the season, they scored three on us and we aren't really used to that. We got down 2-0 and were able to come back but this time we weren't able to do that.
"They flicked it on and just got lucky. He got position off the flick and it was really hard to recover. As a goalie, you really have to know your angles and I was off my angle.''
Wheeling Park has made a living on getting to the corners, using crossing plays and set pieces. Washington did a good job of taking those away.
Baynes was particularly a focus of Kevin Robins and his staff.
''We worked four days on Errin,'' he said. ''We worked on throw-ins to get it across the goal mouth, we worked on corner kicks because every article we read, everybody we talked to, we know he is the best player in the state when it comes to being in the air.
''It was marking with one of our deep mids (Cody O'Meara) and Kris, moving him back to a deeper mid rather than playing way up as a forward as he did most of the season. They were the only two that we felt could keep up with Errin and we tried to rough him up a little bit, put a little pressure on him.''
Baynes managed two shots, including a header that just went wide, but was a non-factor most of the game. His teammates also had a hard time against the Washington defense.
''Their aggression, they used us beating them in the regular season as motivation,'' Julian said. ''When a team out-hustles your for the ball the majority of the game like they did, it makes it very, very difficult. We had our chances in the first half. We were able to get to the end lines, able to get corner kicks, and got one that counted so we felt very comfortable coming out for the second half. ''
It marks the third straight time Wheeling Park advanced to the state tournament undefeated, only to see its first loss come on the Cline Field grass.