It was the only one the Blue Tornado would need.
Vencil’s header that landed in the back, left corner of the goal 4:28 into the first half was the only goal of the game as Richlands took a 1-0 win over Gate City in the Region 2D boys soccer semifinals at Legion Field.
With the win, Richlands advanced to face fellow Southwest District foe Graham, which defeated Union 4-3 in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.
The two teams will play for the regional championship Friday.
BACK AND FORTH
The game was highlighted by several swings in momentum from the two teams, but neither team could capitalize on several scoring opportunities.
“If you took away the first three minutes of the ball game, it was an excellent ball game,” said Gate City coach Darrin Pendleton. “Both sides played hard and played physical. They’re a well-coached team.
“We see where we need to be at now. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and keep grinding and come back for next year.”
Richlands (19-3) kept on the defensive for most of the game after scoring the only goal of the contest early.
“After they went up 1-0 they packed the box. They had six in the box at one time, and it’s hard to get any kind of offense going. And then we get to the point where we’re trying to attack more and that loosens you up on your defense,” Pendleton said.
Sophomore goalie Luke Reed finished the game with 12 saves for Gate City (15-4-2).
Richlands coach Rickie Vencil was glad to get out of Gate City with the win.
“Gate City has a very well-coached team. The kids are fundamentally sound,” said Vencil. “Their home field is a very hard field to play on, and they play very well on it.”
Vencil didn’t feel comfortable until the last whistle blew.
“This was two very good teams and the game could have gone either way. The break just went our way tonight,” he said.
HEADER WINS IT FOR GRAHAM
A header from Carter Nipper at the 30:26 mark of the second half gave Graham the final goal in its win over Union.
Graham scored the first two goals of the game in the first six minutes of the contest.
Craig Hrovatic scored first for the G-Men at the 4:00 mark.
Another goal from Benjamin White 1:34 later put Graham up 2-0.
Union roared back with two goals of its own — one from Mason Bryington at the 13:07 mark and one from about 30 yards out from Andrew Goodman at the 14:54 mark — to tie the contest at 2-2.
A goal from Alexander White at the 19:58 mark of the first half put Graham up 3-2 at halftime.
In the second half, Union tied the game again, this time on a goal from Ethan Harris at the 3:48 mark.
The score remained tied at 3 until the 30:26 mark when Nipper’s header gave Graham the lead for good.