MORGANTOWN — The late, great Aretha Franklin soulfully insisted that she deserved R-E-S-P-E-C-T, a theme that the top-ranked University boys’ soccer team definitely commanded during their undefeated regular season.
However, last night’s Region I Section II final against Buckhannon-Upshur at Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium included additional potential Hawks song titles like R-E-V-E-N-G-E or maybe P-A-Y-B-A-C-K.
Because it was the Buccaneers who knocked UHS out in last year’s sectional final with a 2-1 upset win, and ever since that day, the sour taste has never strayed far from the Hawks’ psyches. So when Buckhannon-Upshur defeated Morgantown on Tuesday, there was more than a little buzz about the matchup on the UHS sidelines before the final began.
And the University tune quickly turned into V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, as it overwhelmed Buckhannon-Upshur with a blistering offensive first half and cruised to the championship with a 9-0 win.
The Bucs (9-9-3) came out strong early, controlling play and turning over the Hawks often, leading to a very dangerous chance in the 14th minute with a flurry around the goal keyed by speedy striker Ryan Hurst, but Buckhannon-Upshur couldn’t finish.
However, if there’s one asset that UHS coach Dustin Talton can count on, it’s a finisher extraordinaire.
Everybody sing: B-I-A-F-O-R-A.
The prolific West Virginia recruit took over the match two minutes later, as he gathered a pass from Mason Shockley, turned a defender inside out, dribbled clear and rolled an angled shot that tucked into the opposite corner for a 1-0 lead.
Then Jo-Jo and the Hawks quickly turned their offensive amplifiers up to 11, as Biafora scored three more in the space of just eight minutes. In the 22nd minute, Brock Pickett slid a ball into space at the top of the box, where Biafora deftly lofted the ball over the closing keeper into the open net. Seven minutes later, a pair of perfect crosses from Wyatt Nett and Shockley found Biafora’s head twice within 30 seconds to double the lead to 4-0.
After the break, University (20-0-1) cemented its sectional title with three more tallies in the first six minutes of the second half. Shockley scored from Justin Parsons before Biafora drilled in his fifth.
From 30 yards away, Matt Cargill found the senior striker slightly free in the box and fired a hard, precise pass that arrived head-high, but Biafora stretched his leg up and somehow softly settled the ball to his feet, turned sharply, and shot over the keeper for a goal. John Michael Jones scored from another sharp feed from Pickett in the same minute to make it 7-0, then a back-heel pass from Biafora sent Shockley in free for another score at the 50th minute.
When Riley Nett netted a final goal 10 minutes later on a pass from Tyler Blohm, all that remained was the starters to watch and rest as the reserves played as the clock ran out.
After the game, Talton congratulated Buckhannon-Upshur coach Mike Donato’s on a fine result to get back to the Sectional final, then commented happily on his team’s solid effort.
“After a few minutes of nerves, I thought we played very well,” he said. “What I liked best was all the goals came off good quality assists. It’s a style of play that is pretty to watch, but is also so very effective, because when we share the ball and trust each other, the set up makes it so much easier to finish. We know we will be facing very good teams the rest of the way, so we’ll need to put together 80 minutes-plus of quality play to be successful. We took a big step forward in approaching that tonight.”
Biafora admitted that he would’ve liked to have faced Morgantown “one last time,” but that this win was just as sweet.
“I really thought we scored ‘team’ goals today, where we connected well, and when we do that, we’re at our best,” he said.
Fellow senior Shockley agreed.
“It didn’t matter. Either way, who we played. We were coming with our best game tonight,” he said. “We’ve all devoted ourselves to each other and to the mission, so we’re excited to keep going, and take the next step toward our ultimate goal.”
And for that song, it’s best to look through the discography of Queen. Think about it, it’ll come to you.
The Hawks will play next Thursday for the Regional title at Brooke High School, with the opponent and time yet to be determined.