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Panthers' playoff run comes to end

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

MARIETTA — Remember this about the Parkview boys soccer team.

Back in late March, it sported an ugly 4-5 record and a 1-2 mark in Region 8-AAAAA. It scrapped its way into the postseason with a 9-9 record and toted the region’s No. 4 seed, not a promising sign for a potential playoff run.

Yet the Panthers strung together three one-goal victories, all on the road, to reach the Class AAAAA semifinals. That run of good fortune finally came to an end Wednesday night as Parkview fell to host Walton 3-0 in the Final Four in a game that was played much closer than the score indicated.

The tough finish finally stopped what had been a brilliant playoff run by the Panthers, who went deeper than any Parkview team since the 2005 state champions.

“Nobody expected us to get this far,” Parkview boys coach Michael Tolmich said. “But once you get this far, you can smell and taste that next level and we couldn’t quite get there. That’s what hurts.

“But for the seniors, what a great run for your senior year. And for everybody else, we’ll rebuild for next year.”

Parkview (12-10) looked solid early in the semifinal, getting the best looks on goal in what was an evenly played first half. Pete Charter had a solid shot that was saved and Jonathon Jarrett created a couple of decent chances.

But it was Walton (15-4) that struck first in the 27th minute. Ali Elkhalil got free in the right side of the penalty box and his cross was struck at the near post by Cory Plasker, who snuck a shot past Parkview goalkeeper Jack Falle.

Falle kept his team’s hopes alive with a tremendous save in the 65th minute, deflecting a point-blank rocket from Walton’s Jad Elkhalil. The save didn’t spark the Panthers’ offense, which wasn’t able to penetrate the tight Raider defense for a serious chance in the second half.

As the Panthers tried to push forward, Walton got a second goal with slightly less than eight minutes left. Ali Elkhalil got free for a breakaway, again down the right side, and slipped a shot past Falle that essentially sealed the outcome.

Holden Fender made sure of a Walton victory, scoring on a free kick blast with only three minutes left, finishing off the surprising Panthers.

“I’m proud of them,” Tolmich said. “I think they did a fantastic job in the playoffs. I don’t think there was one person in the state who thought we’d be in the Final Four and here we are.”