POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - Winfield's Steven Taylor connected on a tie-breaking goal in the final three minutes of each half Tuesday night at Point Pleasant.The first gave the Generals an early lead, and the second gave them so much more.Taylor dribbled one past Huntington goalie Chad Dye off an assist from Jesse Richmond with exactly two minutes remaining and the Winfield defense withstood a mad scramble by the Highlanders to give the Generals a 3-2 win in a thrilling Class AAA Region 4 championship game and the school's first berth into the boys state tournament.It extended a whirlwind, up-and-down season for both Taylor and the Generals.
The junior, who also scored the Generals' other goal Tuesday, broke his collarbone in the team's season opener and has played a limited number of games down the stretch as Winfield has gotten healthy at just the right time. "That was one of the best games we've ever played, that was just amazing," Taylor said. "This is the greatest feeling ever right now. We've never been to states at triple-A, ever, it's just really great."Third-year Winfield coach Mike Foster kept the squad together through injuries and a mediocre regular season. The Generals ended the season ranked No. 17 in the final poll and will enter the state tournament with an 11-9-3 record."We didn't have a winning regular season," Foster said. "We had a lot of people injured - we're just starting to put it back together."
Taylor was able to get just enough on the ball to slip it past Dye with just 2:40 left in the first half to give the Generals a 1-0 advantage at halftime. He went back to work quickly after the break in highlight fashion as he blasted in a goal off a corner kick from Nathan Keefe with 33:26 left to put Winfield up 2-0.But Huntington's Max Simpson found the net with a free kick with 29:10 left, and scored again on a penalty kick with 26:46 remaining after Winfield had been called for a handball in the box.In less than three minutes, the Highlanders had evened the score and had stolen all momentum."I can't fault my guys to come back from a 2-0 deficit - that's incredible," Huntington coach Sammy Boateng said. "I'm very proud of my kids and they played their hearts out and you could tell. They put everything they had out there and I'm very proud of the kids for everything they've done all season."Huntington had a 19-10 advantage in shots and a 14-2 advantage on corner kicks, but also an early start to its offseason."It means a lot to me and the team," Foster said. "It's just been a rough year, but it's the second time Winfield has been to the regionals and the first time they've ever won it. When I settle down I'll realize but right now, it's great."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.