BY JOHN DUBOIS
In a lot of ways, the St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans have become what the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes are hoping to be.
A struggling program for a few years, the Spartans began to emerge last season and this year became a dominant team (16-3-1) and the top seed in the IHSA Class 1A Schlarman Academy regional.
The fourth-seeded Buffaloes (3-13) have made a lot of progress over the last five years, including tripling their win total from last season and a regional win Saturday over Schlarman Academy, but for the most part that progress has yet to be reflected in the win column.
The two teams met Tuesday in regional semi-final action at Schlarman’s Drummy Field with the Spartans taking control early in a 7-0 win over the Buffaloes.
SJO got off a shot on goal in the first 20 seconds, found the net for the first time in the fourth minute, and added three goals right before the half which resulted in a 20 minute run-off to start the second half.
“I had to give them a little pep talk at halftime, but we stepped up and held them scoreless in the second half,” said GRF coach Josh Odle. “We were fighting till the last moments of the game and this game was an improvement over when we played them earlier in the season.”
The Buffaloes were held to only shot on goal in the first half and their best chance to score came with 9 minutes left in the game on a direct kick by senior co-captain Chance Potter which was stopped by SJO goalie Kyle Roedl.
The Spartans’ defense has allowed 14 goals all season.
Buffaloes’ goal keeper Deven McGowan was under pressure the entire game.
“Deven had some good moments tonight,” Odle said. “He is one of several players we had this year that have never played before and most games we were starting two freshman and three players who had never played before.”
Because of that lack of experience, Odle spent a lot of his first year as Buffaloes coach focusing on fundamentals.
“We spent a lot of time this year on the basics,” he said. “Things have really changed a lot since I played for Georgetown-Ridge Farm in 2005. There are a lot of talented players and talented teams like St. Joseph and given that we pretty much had to start over this year, we are pleased with the progress we have made.”
It was the final game for Buffaloes’ seniors Potter, co-captain Callan Hall, Brandon Prather, Maya Green, Brent Winslow and Michael McMurray.
“Even three of our seniors had never played before,” Odle said. “This game was like a lot of our games this year were we saw some improvement the second time against an opponent.”
Odle is optimistic heading into next year.
“Getting the numbers up for next year will be a key for us,” he said. “For most of the year, we only had three subs. If we can get some depth and have a smoother start to the season, we can be a good team.
“We added a lot of good teams like Covington to the schedule this year and we learned from those games. I think we will do pretty well next year.”
The winner of today’s Salt Fork/Westville and Oakwood game will face St. Joseph-Ogden for the regional championship Saturday at 1 p.m.