Clinton goalkeeper Enerson Hernandez stopped a point-blank shot but couldn’t corral it. The ball caromed directly towards a lingering West-Oak forward, who converted. The Wilder Stadium clock showed 3:51 remaining.
Thus did West-Oak eliminate the Red Devils, 1-0, in the first round of the Class 3A boys’ soccer playoffs on Tuesday.
Clinton (10-10) outshot the Warriors, 21-6. It didn’t matter. None of the Red Devil’s shots went in.
“The goal at the end was kind of a blur,” Clinton coach John Michael Hammond said. “It was a fluke thing. … I would chalk that loss more up to ‘we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.’
The match was bitterly and physically conducted. Hammond thought his team showed admirable restraint.
“I congratulated them for having some class,” he said. “Their guys said some things that shouldn’t be said, and our guys did not retaliate, except for one instance, and his teammates immediately pulled him away.”
West-Oak advances with a record of 8-7.
A good season might have been better had Clinton lost one of the state’s top scorers, Parker Duncan, for the entire season due to knee surgery. He will be back next year.
“Parker wasn’t an all-state scorer for nothing,” Hammond said, “but we didn’t use that for an excuse. Our slogan was ‘next man steps up,’ and that was our attitude any time someone was out for some reason, whether sickness or injury, whatever.”