DRESDEN — A year ago, Rosecrans needed overtime to defeat Berlin Hiland en route to the regional finals.
Lane Dailey made sure that wouldn’t be necessary in the rematch.
Dailey scored a pair of goals in the game’s final 25 minutes — the only scoring in the game — to highlight a dominant second half as the top-seeded Bishops blanked the Hawks, 2-0, in a Division III district semifinal at Kenny Wolford Park.
Rosecrans (15-2-2) advanced to play Wheelersburg (17-1-0) at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Athens High School for a berth in the regional. Hiland, which loses five seniors, finished 12-6-0.
The third-seeded Hawks managed only three shots on goal — all saved by ace goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin. Just one came after halftime, as a Rosecrans defense that has yet to yield a goal in the tournament continues to make it difficult for opposing offenses to find scoring areas.
The Hawks found out first hand, as they were given 10 set pieces in the first half and failed to manage a shot on goal from any of them. Those missed opportunities proved costly.
“This is the best game that we’ve played as a team,” Rosecrans coach Rod Gibson said. “Hiland is by far the best competition we have played. They made us adjust and work harder. Our boys played above themselves to get the win.
“They’re not ready for the season to be done yet. Every day there’s a number written up on the board in our locker room about how many days until Aug, 1 next year. We want to get that number as low as possible. It’s a reminder, play hard or you’ll be done.”
If the second half on Tuesday was any indication, that might be a while.
The Bishops successfully defended four corner kicks in the first half, as the Hawks spent ample time in Rosecrans’ end of the field, especially early.
“We were just lucky to get out of there without a goal scored on us,” Dailey said.
But the Bishops’ adjusted. It started with some stern words of encouragement from Gibson to his team. They then worked the middle of the field more, which paid immediate dividends after Carter Hagy broke through the Hawks’ defense in the first minute of the second half and rifled a hard shot from close range that drilled the crossbar.
The Hawks averted danger, but it was a sign of things to come.
Eventually, with just more than 23 minutes left, Dailey finally connected. He managed to get free in close range after a defender slipped and fell, helping him size up a shot.
“I kind of got into a scrum and kicked it as hard as I could to try to get it by the goalie,” Dailey said.
With the Hawks devoting plenty of manpower to the Bishops’ zone in attempt to find a goal, an offensive mishap near midfield led to Marcus Spring getting a steal. With just one defender back, he pushed it ahead to Dailey, who broke away and scored on a hard shot in a 1-on-1 attempt with six minutes left.
“I saw Lane coming out of the corner of my eye, so I just left it for him to take,” Spring said. “I didn’t want to screw it up.”
The defense took it from there.
“Coach lit a fire under our butts at halftime because we weren’t coming out and playing to win,” Dailey said. “The second half we just started clicking on all cylinders. I can honestly say that was the first time all year that our team played better than the other team in the second half. When Carter came out and hit the post, it sent the message that we were coming for them, and they weren’t ready for that.”