WINFIELD - Winfield's season has been filled with injuries and missed opportunities.
The host Generals finally cashed in Saturday afternoon as junior Steven Taylor and senior Hunter Sheldon each scored a goal and senior keeper Bryce Boggs turned in four saves for his second straight shutout over defending state champion Hurricane in a 2-0 decision in the Class AAA Region 4 Section 1 championship. A boisterous crowd of about 300 attended the matchup of state-ranked teams and Putnam County rivals.
Winfield (10-9-3), which finished No. 17 in the final state coaches association rankings, advances to the Region 4 final for the first time since 2004 and will face No. 8 Huntington at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Point Pleasant High School. Hurricane, which lost to Winfield 1-0 during the regular season, finished with a 12-7-3 record.
The Generals and Highlanders tied 1-1 in the regular-season matchup, and Winfield lost 2-1 on an own goal in the Mountain State Athletic Conference third-place game.
Saturday's game was only the third time this season that the Generals, who entered sectionals with a losing record, had their starting lineup intact.
"It means a lot to us,'' said Boggs of winning the section title. "Last year we felt like we had a really good chance to make it there and we didn't.
"Proud to win it. It feels even better that [Hurricane is] our rival. We're ready for regionals. We're really confident about it.''
Taylor, who was the team's leading goal scorer last season with 26 goals, broke his collarbone in the season opener and has played in only a handful of games. He booted his 12th goal Saturday.
"It's been tough, but I've just had to come out and work harder to get back to where I was,'' said Taylor, who is playing with an ankle injury. "We beat [Hurricane] the first time and we knew it wasn't going to mean anything and we had to come back as hard as possible to beat them again.''
Taylor gave Winfield the lead for good at 1-0 with 8:45 left in the opening half off an assist from junior Noah Laliberty. Laliberty took a direct kick from about 35 yards out on the left side that Taylor chested into the net.
Winfield prevented Hurricane from possessing the ball much in the second half, relegating the Redskins to just a few runs down the field. Hurricane switched keepers in hopes of adding some offense, but to no avail. Redskins starting goalie Tim Hayslett had five saves.
Sheldon gave the Generals some breathing room with an unassisted goal with 8:34 to go in the game.
"We failed to put away some rebounds and that's just unlucky on our part,'' said Hurricane first-year coach Derek Ragle, who guided George Washington's girls to a runner-up finish at states last year. "We just needed some people at the right place and right time and we just didn't have that. I think we played well enough to win, but give credit to Winfield. I think that was the difference in the game, we just couldn't put the ball in the net.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.