ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Steubenville is heading back to the district final.
In doing so, Big Red bested the same team it beat in the district final in 2022 — John Glenn.
Cole Bowers notched two goals and senior Matt Loot scored one and assisted on four others as the Red rolled past the No. 3 seeded Muskies 5-2 on Monday at Red Devils Stadium in St. Claisville.
The win pushes Steubenville to Wednesday’s Division II, East District final against top-seeded River View. The Black Bears dispatched of fifth-seeded Tri-Valley 4-0, also on Monday.
“It was important for us to get that first one,” Steubenville head coach Greg Bowers admitted. “Then we had to hold on there for about 15-20 minutes and settle the guys down.
“John Glen is a great team, and they put some pressure on us in the first half so hats off to our goalie.
“He made some great saves.”
Loot got the scoring started in the first half when he took the ball from the left side and sent a blast toward the right-half of the net that bent just enough where Muskies’ keeper Brayden Jackson couldn’t reach it.
Big Red managed just three shots on goal in the first half and Jackson stopped two.
Steubenville keeper Robert Lucas and his back line, however, had a far busier 40 minutes of futbol.
John Glenn sent nine hard shots at the Big Red keeper and the junior turned away all nine. His save total likely would have been higher, if not for players’ like No. 14 Luke DiNovo and No. 2 Hayden Hicks’ willingness to sacrifice their bodies and leap in front of shots at close range, aiding their keeper.
The Muskies finally managed to get two past Lucas in the second half, but in total, he finished with 19 saves including some brilliant diving stops.
“They have some talented forwards all over and they are playmakers,” Bowers said of John Glenn. “And to hold them to two is saying something.”
Set pieces were the catalyst in the second half for Big Red.
Able to take advantage of Loot’s uncanny ability to place corners and direct kicks in ideal locations, along with a decent size advantage with a number of 6-footers, Steubenville utilized its strengths.
Mason Montgomery lept near the net and headed Loot’s corner in with 35:44 showing in the second half for the second goal of the game. Joey Rice followed suit around seven minutes later for a 3-0 score.
The final two Big Red goals began with Loot and ended with Cole Bowers finishing.
“We took advantage of the one thing we have, which is our size,” Coach Bowers said. “Once we got the free kicks and corners, we were able to take advantage and finish.
“We’re fortunate in that we have Matt from the right side and Cole from the left on corners, and then we have a bunch of 6-footers who can finish.”
John Glenn’s first goal came following a flurry of shots at Lucas.
Kanon Riehl sent a ball toward Aarav Vashnav just in front of Lucas and the senior midfielder headed the ball out of the air downward where Lucas couldn’t reach.
The second Muskies’ goal also resulted in an assist for Riehl after William Nicolozakes struck with 11:21 showing.
A win in Wednesday’s showdown with River View would push Big Red through to the Division II regional semifinal round for the second year in a row. It would also mark three years in a row an OVAC team reached the regional semifinal as St. Clairsville beat River View in a shootout in 2021 to win the district tournament.