Gage Johnson

Ontario's Gage Johnson tries to avoid traffic as Clear Fork's Alex Kistler and Aaron Brown converge during the second half of Monday's Division II district semifinal match at Madison's STARTEK Stadium.

MADISON TOWNSHIP — The scoreboard suggested otherwise, but Ontario’s 4-1 Division II district semifinal win over Clear Fork on Monday was anything but comfortable.

The Warriors had their hands full all evening long.

Ontario’s Gage Weaver scored his 35th — and perhaps most unorthodox — goal of the season to break a 1-1 tie in the 70th minute as the Warriors pulled away from their Richland County and Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference rival in the final 10 minutes.

With the win, Ontario (13-5-1) advances to Thursday’s district final against Lexington at 6 p.m. at Clear Fork High School. The Minutemen dispatched Huron 7-1 at Clyde High School on Monday.

The game was tied with less than 11 minutes remaining when Weaver found himself in the right place at the right time. He slipped to the rain-slicked artificial surface just as Ethan McCoy sent a ball into the box and kneed a shot past Clear Fork keeper Griffin Blakley while lying on his stomach.

“(McCoy) crossed it and I was kind of just laying on the ground. I don’t know why,” Weaver said. “I was happy to be there and put the ball in.”

Weaver’s goal opened the flood gates as less than two three minutes later, James Stewart’s corner kick was misplayed by the Clear Fork defense for an own goal and a 3-1 Ontario lead with 7:33 remaining. McCoy sealed it with 2:25 remaining in regulation with an outstanding individual effort. His right-footed shot went through a Clear Fork defender’s legs and past Blakley, who was shielded on the play.

“Clear Fork had a great game plan and they came out and executed it very well,” Ontario coach Chris McClenathan said. “Their effort level was higher than ours in the first half. We finally broke them down in the second half.”

Clear Fork took a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when Jaden Beachy headed in a throw-in from Carter Windsor. Beachy’s header from an awkward angle was just over the outstretched hands of Ontario keeper Omar Abdelaziz.

“We knew what we wanted to do and we knew if we executed we’d give ourselves a chance,” Clear Fork coach Nate Gailey said. “Getting that one early helped set the tone for us. That’s a great statement for our program.

“I’m certainly proud of the boys. I told them there’s nothing to be ashamed of here.”

The Warriors equalized just with just 1:49 remaining in the first half when Jacob Barabani’s one-time eluded a diving Blakley.

Ontario’s attack was relentless. The Warriors dominated the possession throughout and, unofficially, had 23 shots on goal. Clear Fork mustered just four shots on goal and didn’t attempt a corner kick.

“It’s hard to hold our boys back,” McClenathan said. “They came out in the second half and started matching (Clear Fork’s) intensity and we broke them down and got that first one. It really helped.”

Clear Fork finished the season 11-8. The Colts were 7-2 in their final nine matches.

“There’s excitement around the program again,” Gailey said. “That’s exactly what you want. That’s the work that matters. Sure, it ended in a loss but you can still be proud of the way that it ended.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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