BROADVIEW HTS. — Wadsworth boys soccer coach John Johnson couldn’t have asked for any more Saturday night.
His Grizzlies went toe to toe with senior-laden Brecksville, one of the top programs in Greater Cleveland, behind aggressive play rarely seen in late August.
A penalty kick early in the second half, however, was the difference as Wadsworth fell 1-0 in non-conference play.
“This was one of those battles,” Johnson said. “I told the guys, ‘We tried to do the right thing and we played hard. I’ll deal with the result.’ They did what I asked them to do. That’s a very, very talented team.”
After withstanding a handful of runs from Brecksville (2-0-1), the Grizzlies found themselves in a scoreless tie at halftime.
Both teams came out aggressively in the second half, making each possession valuable before incidental contact by sophomore Josh Zembas, who got tripped up with Paul Phillips in the corner of the penalty-box area, gave the Bees a chance to break the game open.
They did just that, as Craig Bair calmly placed the shot in the upper right-hand corner over the shoulder of goalkeeper Blake Shed.
“It was a fair penalty call,” Brecksville coach Mike Battista said. “It’s a tough one. It’s inadvertent contact — nonetheless contact — and referees hate to call that, but in the end it was the right decision.”
The Grizzlies’ play took the Bees out of rhythm they had in the first half, when they uncorked 10 shot attempts — five of which were on goal — and had an eye-popping 11 corner kicks.
Whether it was a slide tackle, winning a 50-50 ball or a nice save in goal from Shed, Wadsworth’s backline was there every time and matching Brecksvile’s intensity play for play.
“We talked about that at halftime about matching their physicalness, and that comes with some kids being young, and this is the first time they’ve really been thrown in to this type of game,” Johnson said. “There were some kids that their eyes were open to it, but we will get better because of this game. They’re no doubt.”
The physical play alone rattled the Bees so much ot resulted in 20 fouls (12-8 in Brecksville’s favor) and five yellow cards being issued in the second half alone.
Shed, who made a pair of diving stops in the first half that kept the Grizzlies in it, made two more key stops after Brecksville took the lead. He grabbed a John Bonamer header with outstretched arms midway through the half and came out of the box late in regulation to knockdown a Joe Genco shot with his stomach.
Those saves, combined with Robbie Bosley, Zembas and Connor Warholic clearing the ball and getting stops of their own, helped to kick-start the Grizzlies attack for a feverish finish.
“In the second half, they took us out of our rhythm,” Battista said. “They came more and more into the game, and we had a couple of chances to finish them off (in the first half). We couldn’t do it, and they came back with a flurry there at the end.
“We knew it was going to be a battle and our guys played smart enough to win this one and hold them off.”
Like Shed, it was Brecksville keeper Brandon Schroedel came up with key saves.
Wadsworth forward Jared Greissing had the team’s first shot on goal on a breakaway that was knocked down by Schroedel.
Minutes later, Greissing drew a foul near the top of the box, resulting in an indirect kick that was blocked by the Bees line — only to have Bosley fired a bullet back at Schroedel that he caught.
“Their keeper came up with a great save at the end, twice, on that breakaway that Jared had and that set-play rebound,” Johnson said. “My reports told me the kid was good in the nets and he was good. He saved them as Blake Shed saved us.”
Despite leaving town with a one-goal loss, Johnson is hoping the game proved to his team it can play with just about anyone.
“I knew we were going to be in for a battle and we competed,” he said. “If you don’t believe you can play after this game, then we have problems.
“We should be able to compete and I know we can compete, but I’m not playing, they are.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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