MARION — Lexington boys soccer coach Peter Them turned 38 Tuesday and his Minutemen delivered a belated birthday present on a frosty Wednesday evening.
Gage Potter scored the game’s only goal in the 27th minute and Lex’s stingy defense made it stand up in a 1-0 win over Columbus Watterson in the Division II regional semifinals at Harding Stadium.
“I always say if we’re still playing soccer around my birthday, that’s a good thing,” Them said.
The Minutemen (15-1-4) will play Lima Shawnee for a regional title and a berth in next week’s state tournament at 11 a.m. Saturday in Marion. Shawnee blanked Sandusky Perkins 8-0 in Wednesday’s other regional semifinal.
Watterson (12-4-2) controlled the possession in the early going before the Minutemen began to play themselves into the match. Lex finally got it’s opportunity when Alex Depperschmidt collected a Watterson turnover near midfield and sent a pass into space for Potter, who tracked it down along the right flank and sent a shot into the lower right corner of the goal as he slid to his knees.
“Me and Al have just always clicked,” Potter said. “We got a lucky tap and I put it in.”
Watterson spent much of the second half on the attack, but the Lex defense was equal to the task. Rangy keeper Garet Weaver made several saves in the closing minutes to seal the victory.
“Watterson has got a really good, really fast attack,” Weaver said. “I wasn’t really expecting us to come out with a shutout at the end of the night.
“My back line really saved me. The credit goes to them.”
The Minutemen were able to neutralize Trent Maisano, Watterson’s All-Ohio senior forward. Sophomore defender Terrance Corbin had the unenviable task of marking Maisano most of the evening and did an admirable job.
“If we could hold (Maisano) to one goal, I think we wold have been successful,” Them said. “That was the honest truth. Can we limit his chances? “We were very smart with our defensive plan with him and kept him in check.”
Lex will play Shawnee in the regional championship for a third straight year. The Minutemen won a regional title in 2019 and fell to Shawnee last fall.
“For all of us it’s really exciting,” Weaver said of reaching the Elite Eight. “A lot of guys who are starting this year didn’t get a lot of playing time (last year). It still feels fresh for us.”