By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Tippecanoe can’t technically say that it clinched at least a share of its third straight division title Tuesday night.
But the Red Devils’ victory was still a critical one.
In a matchup of the only two teams still unbeaten in Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play, the Tippecanoe and Troy boys soccer teams were locked in a scoreless battle for more than 45 minutes before Ben Halsey finally rifled a shot in to give the advantage to the Devils, and Andrew Baileys added an insurance goal with 20 minutes to play to put away a 2-0 victory over the Trojans Tuesday at Tipp City Park.
With the win, the two-time defending champion Devils improved to 10-2-1 overall and 8-0 in GWOC American North play, leaving them needing only a win in a makeup game at winless Trotwood Thursday to clinch a share of a third straight title since entering the league.
And for Tippecanoe, the win came on the heels of a particularly though loss, a 2-1 defeat against Alter the week before in a rematch of the past two Division II regional finals — both of which the Knights have won.
“At the half, I told them that there wasn’t really that energy,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing said. “We just came off a tough game against Alter, and I thought we weren’t possessing the ball well enough. I challenged them at the half, and the second half was a much different game. We knew coming in that it was going to be a hard game, a physical game. But you have to work the whole game. It was good to get this win, especially coming off the Alter loss.”
Troy, meanwhile, lost for only the first time since the season opener against Carroll, snapping an 11-game winning streak and dropping the Trojans to 11-2 overall and 8-1 in the GWOC American North — and leaving them needing help to claim a share of the division title. Tippecanoe still must play Butler (12-2, 7-1 GWOC American North) on Oct. 9 in the final game of the season, and an Aviator win could potentially mean that all three teams would share the crown.
“We gave everything we had, and that’s all you can ask,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “We had some chances in the first and second half that we couldn’t capitalize on. They (Tippecanoe) played well. You’ve got to give them credit.”
And while Troy controlled play for much of the first half, it simply couldn’t generate any dangerous offensive chances. And while the Devils didn’t fare much better early — with Ben Sauls hitting the post at the 22:30 mark of the first half for the team’s best chance to score — they slowly began to gain the edge in the second half.
“I think they got a little tired, too,” Downing said. “I think we may have had a little more depth on the bench, and we used it. They started to lose a little possession, and we started to gain a bit more. And giving up that first goal really takes it out of you, too.”
And with 34:02 to play, the Devils finally cashed in.
Troy’s defense misplayed one ball in the back end, and Evan Stonerock won the race to it. Instead of carrying it with him, though, he simply tapped it behind himself and left it for Ben Halsey, who drilled a rocket past the keeper and in to give Tippecanoe a 1-0 lead.
“Just a little flick to him (from Stonerock), and he (Halsey) just ripped one in,” Downing said. “I think it came off so fast, the goalie couldn’t see it until the last second.”
“They got that first goal, and it’s difficult to come from behind against these guys, or any quality team,” Phillips said. “That first goal they had was a tremendous goal. We got beat on the near post, too — the keeper was at the near post, and that’s where he hit it. It was well struck.”
And with 20:24 to go, the Devils got an insurance goal as Stonerock hit a through-ball to Andrew Baileys, who redirected it in to make the score 2-0 — and the defense did the rest from there as Jake Weimer and Adam Trimbach combined on the shutout.
“It was nice to get that second one in there for some insurance,” Downing said. “All coaches have been in that situation where you’re up by one, then you give up one late and the whole momentum of the game changes.”
“We defended well in the first half, and we defended well in the second half,” Phillips said. “That first goal, they capitalized on that ball, and he didn’t hesitate to hit.”
Next up for Tippecanoe is the makeup game against Trotwood Thursday. The Trojans still have a pair of non-league games remaining — including one at Tecumseh on Saturday — with a must-win matchup against division rival Piqua on Oct. 9.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.