WADSWORTH — What a difference two days made for the Wadsworth and Cloverleaf boys soccer teams.
The Grizzlies came into their Suburban League opener Tuesday brimming with confidence after dropping a hard-fought decision to Brecksville, while the winless Colts entered Art Wright Memorial Stadium with the bitter taste of a gut-wrenching loss to Brookside.
It was Cloverleaf, however, that rose to the challenge, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Wadsworth en route to a 0-0 draw.
“This feels tremendous,” Colts coach Kevin Graham said. “Our guys really dug deep and played their butts off out there. They were working the ball around and it just looked good. I’m very proud of them.”
Early on, Wadsworth (2-1-1, 0-0-1) put a couple runs together and looked to have scored 10 minutes into the game by fooling just about everyone in the press box. Grayson Burridge took a deflected shot by Drew Sidol that Cloverleaf goalkeeper Zach Witmer knocked down and fired to the left of the goal, only to hit the outside of the netting.
Little did the Grizzlies know the ‘1’ that stood on the scoreboard for a couple minutes before the error was fixed would be one of their few chances.
“I think overall we just played excellent,” Colts senior forward A.J. Timken said. “Our defense stood strong and up top, we had a few missed chances, but we had great ball movement.”
A big reason for the tie was the Cloverleaf defense, as Graham tinkered with his lineup. He moved Timken, an All-Gazette forward who already has six goals, to defense.
Defenders Tristan Tierney, Nate Watkins and Jon Cesare cleared the ball in dangerous situations, setting up midfielder Collin Zuk to play the ball off to Jack Lewarchick and Cameron Markeson in the offensive third.
Combine that with the return of senior goalkeeper Zach Witmer (6 saves), who was out for two games after being injured in a season-opening loss to Keystone, and the Colts (0-3-1, 0-0-1) found the right mix.
“We had our chances, but I thought the strength of our defense was getting our starting keeper back,” Graham said. “We changed our formation a little bit, and that seemed to work out really, really well. They were just confident and playing the ball nice, and were just all over the field tonight.”
Markeson, Lewarchick, Andrew Podolak and Brenne McCullar all had shots on goal, along with near-misses by Markeson at the end of the first half on a breakaway and Lewarchick with a minute left in regulation, when he took a feed from Donny Daniels and fired an attempt wide left.
Wadsworth had six shots on goal and eight shots overall, but saw limited shot attempts from its playmakers against Cloverleaf’s new-look defense.
“I thought some people seemed very disinterested to be out there tonight,” Grizzlies coach John Johnson said. “We continually encourage people that we’ve got to do this and we’ve got to do that. We talked about something at halftime we needed to do and the first time it came up, we didn’t do it.
“(Against Brecksville) we looked to attack and we looked to go forward. Tonight, every time we went forward, we would turn around and kick it back. That I don’t understand. I don’t have an answer for why. (Cloverleaf) played well. I’m going to give them credit. They took us out of our game and played hard.”
Despite not leaving with the elusive victory they were out for, Timken and his Cloverleaf teammates will head to the practice field today with a different outlook.
“It’s been a hard couple of weeks here,” he said. “But I feel our team stepped up and proved that we can play tough teams and get a result. I’m fine with a tie here. I would like a win, but sometimes you have to take the tie.”
In the 36-game series, Tuesday night was the seventh tie. Wadsworth leads 24-5-7.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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