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Prep boys soccer: Braves blank Ross, claim second straight SWOC title

Talawanda High School boys soccer senior Alex Pohlabel remembers when the Braves’ core group was freshmen.

“I remember we were playing JV and we talked about how nice it’d be to be on varsity and win a title,” Pohlabel said. “We did it. We achieved our dream.”

In fact, the Braves doubled up on it.

The Braves claimed their second consecutive Southwest Ohio Conference championship with a 3-0 win over visiting Ross on Thursday night.

Talawanda finished 6-0 in SWOC play, pushing its two-year conference mark to 10-0-1. The Braves have not lost a SWOC contest since dropping a 1-0 decision to Little Miami on Sept. 29, 2015.

“This group started playing together in youth, and I need to really thank (assistant coach) Tony Farrell because he brought them up together,” Talawanda coach Heath Kelly said after his squad moved to 12-2-1 overall after starting 2-2. “They’ve played together since they were little guys and it shows.”

The Braves had some problems to begin the game, but a left-footed rifle from Andrew Belec found the back of the net from 35 yards out for a 1-0 lead with 30:40 remaining in the opening half.

“I saw a chance and took it,” Belec said. “Once we get a goal, it is hard to stop us.”

After forcing Ross keeper Michael Saylor to make a pair of diving saves, Sam Robinson pushed the lead to 2-0 with 7:04 left.

Robinson took a free kick from 26 yards out that went around the Ross wall and into the right side net for his conference-leading 20th goal and 51st point of his junior year.

“Sam is a good kid, but he has a got a rocket for a foot,” Rams coach Doug Amend said after his team fell to 10-4-2 overall and finished third in the SWOC at 3-2-1. “That first goal they had came out of nowhere. They played well. That is a great Talawanda team.”

The Braves outshot Ross 6-2 in the first half and just missed pushing the lead to 3-0 with 4:33 remaining when a Robinson shot drilled the post before Saylor was able to haul in the rebound.

“We had a letdown after they scored their first goal,” Amend said. “We just couldn’t get it back together.”

The years playing together showed on one last goal when Andy June slid a perfect no-look through ball to Brendan Bohon, who slid the ball under Saylor for a 3-0 lead with 35:45 left in the game.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” Kelly said. “We can score goals when we work together as a total team.”

Talawanda outshot Ross 11-3 for the game.

Next up for the Braves is taking a high-powered offense with 65 goals this year into the Division I postseason.

The 12th-seeded Braves open at home against No. 18 Walnut Hills on Tuesday at 7 p.m. A win would put them in the second round against either No. 8 Sycamore or No. 29 Northwest.

“No Talawanda team has made it past the second round,” Kelly said. “That’s our curse, but we are looking to break through it.”

Ross is seeded fourth in Division II and will be at home against either No. 8 Wilmington or No. 10 Waynesville on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

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