GW denies PHS state soccer title, 1-0

BECKLEY -George Washington goalkeeper Garrett Phillips knew something was going to have to give in the Patriots’ Class AAA state championship match with Parkersburg Saturday morning.

He just didn’t expect it to go the way it did.

With both teams scoreless late in the match, a Parkersburg defender was called for a handball in the box, setting up a Peter Nelson penalty kick.

Nelson buried it past the Big Red keeper, Reid Strobl, to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead in the 76th minute and the eventual victory.

“It’s awesome man,” he said. “I just went up and took it. My team told me to take it and I made it.”

It was something GW coach Tom Hopper had prepared for, with it being late in the match and heading to a shoot-out was a possibility.

“Here’s my list for the PKs,” Hopper said with a laugh, pulling a list of paper from his jacket, which had Nelson’s name at the top. “You get to this point and you have to be prepared.”

While the goal was enough to put GW’s name in the history books as the state champions, it was one fueled by controversy that lead to tempers flaring.

“I mean, it was a clear call. The kid just about caught it,” Hopper said. “I think back to a couple weeks ago and we played them in the MSAC. We had a handball called on us and it tied the game up. I guess turnabout is fair.”

It was a back and forth battle for much of the match, with neither team budging on defense.

And as Phillips had said, something was going to have to give sooner or later.

The senior keeper had no doubt though it would be in their favor.

“They were bringing a lot of pressure,” he said. “But my defense was playing a great game. They were getting shots off we could handle.”

The win gave Phillips a championship and a personal goal of his.

“My goal at the beginning of the season was to get 19 shutouts,” he said.

“After sectional and regionals I didn’t think it would happen. Two straight shutouts in the playoffs is hard to do. All credit goes to my defense, I got my goal.”

Hopper, the Class AAA boys coach of the year, was gracious in victory.

“Ya know, it was a hard fought game both ways,” he said. “We knew someone would get a lucky break. I feel sorry for the other team losing on a PK like that. That’s part of the game.

“They’ve got a very well coached team year in and year out,” he continued. “They produce very, very good teams. Each team had a lot of chances, we got a lucky break with the handball.”