McClain senior Braeden Bergstrom is shown battling a Chillicothe player during Thursday's 3-1 victory. (Photo by Jim Jones)
McClain senior Braeden Bergstrom is shown battling a Chillicothe player during Thursday's 3-1 victory. (Photo by Jim Jones)
The McClain Tigers defended their home field in convincing fashion on Thursday night, as their offense and their stout defense led them to a 3-1 victory at McClain Field over the reigning Frontier Athletic Conference champion Chillicothe Cavaliers.

The first half proved to be a good half for both FAC teams. Both the Tigers and Cavaliers had solid opportunities to score, but didn’t capitalize. Possession went back and forth between the two conference foes — and things got physical for a bit, resulting in two yellow cards for the host Tigers.

Chillicothe held possession of the ball, but the Tigers were able to stop them from penetrating their defense as the score was tied at zero when halftime arrived.

The second half was where the FAC battle became interesting.

Chillicothe and the Tigera both came out ready for a battle, and a battle it was.

“I think both teams knew the importance of this game for FAC placement,” McClain head coach Nick McNeal said. “The second half continued like the first, but eventually we were able to win a free kick on our side of the field.”

McClain’s Braeden Bergstrom put the free kick on target, and Francesco Branchini put a slight touch on the ball with his head to put it in the net, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

With around 12 minutes remaining, Chillicothe capitalized on a corner kick to equalize the score 1-1.

In the final 10 minutes, the Tigers were awarded another free kick, and once again Bergstrom was able to put the ball in the right place, earning the Tigers another goal.

Soon after, McClain’s Luke Sanchez was able to make a nice run down the left wing. With the keeper coming out of the goal, Sanchez was able to put the ball in for another goal for the Tigers.

“The two yellow cards in the beginning really hurt. It took out two key players early, and I couldn't risk putting them back in,” McNeal said. “If a player gets a second yellow, it's a soft red. A red card causes the team to play a man down for the remainder of the game, and Chillicothe is not the team to do that against. Thankfully we were able to overcome this, and we had some players really step up tonight.”

The Tigers head coach also spoke about the success of the season thus far.

“The success of this season thus far has been the ability of these guys to work as a team,” McNeal said. “One of the best struggles I have as a coach this year is figuring out who had the best game each night, because I feel like every kid on this team plays so well.

“Braeden Bergstrom is one of the best set piece players I have ever seen, and I don't think the kid gets enough credit for it. His free kicks really put us on top tonight. He had three free kicks within range tonight, and one resulted in an assist, another as a goal, and there was one more that was inches from the post.”

McNeal spoke about other players on the roster who helped in this big FAC win for the Tigers.

“Richie Lester did a heck of a job playing as our defensive mid tonight. He helped to shut down a lot of Chillicothe attacks and start a lot of ours. Luke Sanchez did a lot of good work for us on the left side,” McNeal said. “He was so good on his runs down the wing. He is one of the best one-on-one players when attacking.

“I also have to give credit to our defensive play tonight. Our center backs, Andrew Newland and Raymond Daughtrey, were solid in the back along with goalkeeper Noah Reeves. Our kids playing the fullback positions tonight, Jase Allison, Memphis Beatty and Emerson Yates, did great as well. They made their way up and down the field, playing good solid defense along with making plays offensively as well.”

In their past four games, the Tigers have outscored their opponents, 9-2.