COLUMBUS – Bluffton ripped off a quality first shot halfway through the first half.
But all that did was jump start Columbus Wellington’s lightning-quick, bang-bang counter attack.
Wellington scored seconds later on the counter attack and went on to post a 4-0 victory over Bluffton in the Division III boys soccer state championship Sunday at Columbus Crew’s MAPFRE Stadium.
It was the first trip to the state finals for both teams.
Wellington (18-2-3) led 3-0 at the half with senior Ahmet Ozer scoring all three of his team’s goals.
“It’s amazing,” Ozer said. “We made history.’’
It marked the seventh time an area team has reached the boys soccer state tournament.
And Bluffton is the first to reach the state championship match.
Bluffton finished the season 18-3-2.
“They were very talented and very athletic,” Bluffton coach Steve Smucker said. “And the stage was a little bigger than we were today. There were some players (for us) who didn’t have best match today and that’s part of the growth experience. We haven’t had a lot of experience being here.’’
The Wellington School didn’t give up a goal in the postseason tournament.
The Jaguars not only sucked up everything that came through the midfield, they dominated time of possession.
The Jaguars outshot Bluffton 12-1.
Bluffton goalkeeper Nic Essinger made seven saves.
In the opening half, Bluffton struggled to mount an attack into the Jaguars’ offensive end.
Instead, it was Wellington swirling through the midfield and setting up outside the 18-yard box.
But with 21 minutes left in the first half, Bluffton had a quick surge.
A cross came into the box to Bluffton’s Tayton Kleman, who fired from 15-yards out.
Wellington goalkeeper Aurius Calloway made a flying save. Calloway quickly got to his feet and sent an outlet pass on its way.
The Jaguars went immediately on the counter attack.
Henry Lin took the outlet and fed Ozer inside the box.
Ozer dribbled in and drilled a shot from 8-yards out into the left side of the net.
That gave Wellington a 1-0 lead with 20:41 left in the first half.
“That’s what good teams do,” Smucker said of the counter attack. “They catch you at awkward moments. And they are very athletic.’’
Ozer said, “I’m always ready for it (the counter). Everyone goes forward and we try to play that diagonal ball and it worked out.’’
The rest of the half was all Wellington, as the Jaguars outshot Bluffton 7-1 in the first half.
“The moment Bluffton had some offensive success was also going to be a dangerous moment for them when we won the ball back,” Wellington coach J.J. Bain said. “I think we were looking for that because we knew it would be hard to break them down when they were back. When they had a couple of attacking opportunities we really wanted to counter quickly.’’
With 16:36 left in the first half, Freddie Lin made a tap pass to Ozer at the top of the box.
Ozer had a defender on him, but did a complete 360-spin move and went around the Pirate defender.
Ozer dribbled to 15-yards out and fired a shot into the right side of the net to make it 2-0 at the 16:36 mark.
Wellington made it 3-0 when Eli Dulle sent a high pass from midfield again to a flying Ozer at the top of the box.
Ozer dribbled to 15-yards out and ripped a shot into the lower-left corner of that net.
That came with 9:14 left in the first half.
The Jaguars continued their pin-point passing in the second half, as they waited for the opening against the Bluffton flat-back four defense.
It came with 18:09 left in the match when Henry Lin, 40-yards out, played the ball ahead to Freddie Lin, who received it 25-yards out.
Freddie Lin took it to 12-yards and pounded a shot into the upper-right side of the net.
That gave the Jaguars a 4-0 lead.
That was Henry Lin’s second assist.
Bluffton had gone to overtime in his last four matches to reach the state championship.
“I’m proud of them for all those overtime games,” Smucker said. “It was a great run. I’m proud to be here and proud to be a part of it today. Our team battled so I was happy with our effort.’’
TOURNAMENT HISTORY: Area teams that have reached the state boys soccer tournament are the following: Ottawa-Glandorf 1998; Kalida 2001; Kalida 2002; Fort Jennings 2004; Celina 2016 and Bluffton 2019. Bluffton is the first team to reach the state finals.
At Columbus MAPFRE Stadium
Columbus Wellington 4,
Goals: Ahmet Ozer (W), Freddie Lin (W).
Shots: Wellington 12, Bluffton 1.
Goalkeeper saves: Nic Essinger (B) 7. Aurius Calloway (W) 1.
Records: Wellington 18-2-3; Bluffton 19-2-2.