Historic season ends for Bulldogs: Milton-Union boys fall in district semifinal

TIPP CITY — Milton-Union boys soccer coach Todd Winchester chose not to focus on the call that set up the eventual game-winning goal by Ben Logan.

Instead, he just thought about everything his Bulldogs had accomplished this season and how hard they played until the end — even if it ended the way it did.

“Overall, I’m just proud of the way our guys played,” Winchester said.

In the end, Ben Logan was awarded an indirect kick inside the box, and a quick tap to Blaine Worden for an upper-90 blast with 24:39 to play proved to be the only score in Monday’s Division II district semifinal match at Tipp City Park as second-seeded Milton-Union was upset by the third-seeded Raiders, 1-0.

Ben Logan (13-4-1) advances to face Cincinnati Wyoming in the district final Thursday at Lebanon High School. Wyoming, the top seed in the South sectional and No. 4-ranked team in the state’s final D-II poll, defeated Indian Hill 3-0 in Monday’s other district semifinal.

For Milton-Union, though, it was a historic season as the Bulldogs finished with a 13-5-1 record and won a share of the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship — the program’s first ever division title. They shared it with Waynesville with matching 8-1-1 records in league play.

“We’ve had a great season,” an emotional Winchester said. “We won league for the first time in school history. We had the first reserve team in 16 years. And we just had a great senior class.

“We talked all year long about what we wanted to do in our last year in the SWBL. We wanted to beat Waynesville, and we went 1-0-1 against them, and we won the league. It was nice to have that ‘2020’ on that banner for the first time.”

But Ben Logan knew that the Bulldogs had a number of weapons, particularly the Buckeye Division’s leading scorer in sophomore Mason Grudich, and the Raiders focused defensively on shutting down Milton-Union’s attack while trying to find openings for themselves.

“They’re a well-coached team. They knew what we wanted to do, getting Grudich the ball, so they man-marked him quite a bit and frustrated him,” Winchester said.

Still, the Bulldogs had the best scoring chance of the back-and-forth first half, narrowly missing a redirect in front of the Raider goal wide right by less than a foot with 26:15 on the clock — and eventually the teams went into halftime with a scoreless tie.

“That goes in, and it’s a different ballgame. We had another shot or two in the first half that I think, if one of those goes in, it’s a different ballgame, because then we can take them out of their element and what they’re trying to do,” Winchester said.

But midway through the second half, Ben Logan got its chance.

The Raiders were awarded an indirect kick inside the box, and Caleb Epp lightly tapped the ball to allow Worden a free run at a shot — and Worden knocked it into the upper-90 to give Ben Logan a 1-0 lead with 24:39 to play.

“From my view, my player got pushed into the ball,” Winchester said. “I don’t know if you make a call like that in a game of that magnitude — but overall, I’m just proud of the way our guys played.”

From there, Milton-Union kept the pressure on Ben Logan’s goal but simply couldn’t find a way to put it into the back of the net, and the Raiders celebrated the narrow victory.

It was the final game in the careers of Milton-Union seniors Dakota King, Devin Lambert, Gabe Goodman and Danny Booker.

“On paper, this is one of the winningest senior classes we’ve ever had,” Winchester said. “Their freshman year, we went to the district final. I’m just really proud of the boys. We’ve come a long way.“

But as the Bulldogs leave the SWBL for the Three Rivers Conference in 2021, they not only leave with a bright future and a lot of young talent … they also leave it as champions.

“We’ve still got a ways to go, going into a new league next year. And we’re a young team. I keep trying to remind myself of that,” Winchester said. “We’ve only got four seniors and six juniors, and only four of those juniors start. We’ve got a talented sophomore and junior class, and that happens in big games like this, you get a little tighter.

“Next year, we’ll be wiser for it. We’ll know, in these situations, what we’ve got to do to win games and put them away.”