GRANGER TWP. — As the temperature slowly dropped below the 90-degree mark, the Highland boys soccer team cooled down and Tallmadge heated up.
The Blue Devils overcame an early two-goal deficit behind a hat trick from Tyler Helderman to notch a 3-2 Suburban League win Tuesday.
With the Hornets (3-3, 1-2) opening a 2-0 lead behind goals from Logan Davis and Corey Zelinski, it would have been easy for the Blue Devils (2-2-1, 1-2) to fold.
Tallmadge was coming off losses to Copley and Revere by a combined score of 16-2, so things looked bleak.
But Helderman, who had a dominating performance throughout, finally broke through with 6:08 to play in the first half, when he took a nice pass from Cole Harvey and found the back of the net for the Blue Devils’ first goal.
“Our individual errors had cost us all season,” Tallmadge coach Max Pezzaniti said. “”It was time to step up and stop giving teams a free ride. We got back that one goal and we got the confidence to move forward. That’s what really brought us out of the game.”
Helderman, a sophomore forward, kept thing rolling in the second half, heading in a corner kick from Nate Todd 13:40 in to knot the game.
“Our whole team put forth an effort to get back into the game,” Helderman said. “Coach really worked us hard in practice and we worked together as a team. That was probably our best performance in two years. We worked really hard tonight and it was a team effort.”
Helderman banged in the game-winner 10 minutes later and gave the Blue Devils a much-needed SL win.
“Tyler has a lot of potential to be a big player for us,” Pezzaniti said. “He’s got a lot of growing up to do, but he’s got the tools, he’s got the physical ability and, when he got the opportunity one-on-one, he was beating them every time.”
For Highland, the loss was tough to swallow after statistically dominating the game and controlling play for the better part of the 80-minute tilt.
“The difference in the game was the effort level,” Highland coach Bob Sefcik said. “We were incredibly lazy and we did not match Tallmadge’s effort. That was the difference.”
The Hornets fired 28 shots (10 on goal) to just 11 for the Blue Devils and earned a 10-4 advantage on corners.
Despite the lopsided numbers, Sefcik was clearly disappointed with the way his team played.
“We are notorious for playing at the level of our competition, whether that be down or up,” he said. “I think a lot of our guys have to start looking in the mirror at this point. This is at least the fifth time this season where the effort is the question mark, and that’s a huge concern as a coach.”
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.