With a run of three straight Patriot Athletic Conference titles on the line and a streak of 33 consecutive wins in the league at risk Wednesday night, the Dukes were not going to be denied.
Three insurance goals in the second half helped Wellington keep both those runs alive as it rolled to a 5-1 win over Buckeye.
The victory helped the Dukes (12-2-1, 7-0) to a fourth Stars Division championship, along with putting an end to the title hopes for the Bucks (10-5-1, 6-1), who were searching for their first conference crown since 2005.
It’s fair to say that Wellington wasn’t leaving the pitch without a victory.
“No way,” senior forward Chris Coker said. “We’ve won 34 conference games (after tonight) since we were freshmen and we’re making history for our school.
“I give it up to the team. I know that I’m supposed to be the goal scorer, but it’s the whole team’s job and that’s what we showed today.”
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Coker got things going a little over three minutes into the game when he headed a cross in from teammate Matt Dooley.
Buckeye would tie things up when Brandon Patera kicked in a direct free kick from the top of the box with 18 minutes left, but that would be the last of the highlights for the Bucks.
The Dukes would dominate the tempo from there on and 5 minutes later would net the eventual game-winner when Brandon Rinehart placed a penalty kick into the right corner of the net.
“Our goal was to win the conference and we wanted to make sure that everyone knew and understood that we were playing above another undefeated team,” said Wellington coach Bill Bogan, whose team improved its all-time PAC record to 39-2-2.
“Our kids know how to win. We’re game ready and at the beginning of the season we struggled with coming out flat, but the last five games we’ve come out strong.”
Coker would score again to open the second half with 28:30 left. The league’s leading scorer stole a goal kick from Bucks keeper Colton Steinbrenner (7 saves) and pushed it in with two touches on the ball.
“It just came to me and I played it from there,” Coker said of his second goal. “Their goalie wasn’t hustling, so I tried harder and harder and I got it.”
The flood gates would open from there as the Dukes’ Nick Dowdell and Jared Snyder would score in a span on 4 minutes as the team outshot Buckeye 15-4 for the game.
Wellington goalkeeper Mike Hicks made just one save, but it was a good one as the senior dove to his left and batted down a Patera header attempt with two hands.
“Wellington’s a good team and when you make a mistake, they’re going to score,” Bucks coach Matt Patera said. “We made five mistakes and they got five goals.
“We had a game plan, but they didn’t stick with it too well. Wellington took us out of our game and we were on the backs of our heels the whole night.”