COPLEY TWP: Copley dominated the ball and eventually found the back of the net to defeat visiting Nordonia 1-0 in a Suburban League soccer opener Tuesday night.
The Indians scored the decisive goal at the 29-minute mark of the second half, when freshman forward Chris Brennan dribbled into the box along the outside and found junior midfielder John Harter in middle. Harter easily one-touched a shot into a corner of the goal.
“We sort of saw the same situation from these guys last year in that they sort of packed it in,” Copley coach Dave Antal said. “Our guys did a good job of being patient. We kept trying to go wide and that’s where our goal came from.”
Before that, Copley (3-0, 1-0) kept the ball almost exclusively in Nordonia’s half of the field — the Indians put up 11 more shots and allowed only two scoring chances for the Knights (1-3, 0-1).
It was re-run to Nordonia coach Jake Cooper.
“That’s the story of our team,” Cooper said. “We’ve been out-possessed in our first four games. That’s just kind of who we are right now.”
Nordonia did come excruciatingly close to tying the score twice in the final 20 minutes. Knights senior Brandon Lanese found some space deep inside the box but had his shot partially blocked by Copley captain Michael Dichlian and then stopped by sophomore goalie Ameer Mubarak.
At the 12-minute mark, Nordonia lined up for a crucial corner kick and what would be its last real shot at a tie. Nineteen players entered the box in a mad scramble.
Junior Brice Bostjancic rose above the crowd but his header hit off the side post and was cleared by Mubarak.
“It was close, but to win a game, you’ve got to earn it and Copley outplayed us for most of the game,” Cooper said. “We had a couple set pieces and what-not but you gotta earn more opportunities to get goals.”
Mubarak was thrust into the starter’s role after senior Cory Schepp tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the spring. Antal has been impressed with Mubarak’s leadership in the early going.
“Ameer really commands the field from the back, quite above his time as a sophomore,” he said. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of great goalies at Copley, and I think Ameer is the next in line. He’s got a lot of years in the net for us.”
Mubarak had four saves. In the other net, Nordonia junior goalie Jonah Cercek saved six shots and played well considering how often the ball was within shooting range.
“When you play 70-80 minutes of defense, it’s very tough to win a game that way,” Cooper said.
Both sides might have lost key a player for a while after a vicious collision in the first half. Copley senior Brandon Gathagan and Nordonia senior Alec Groff each went up for a header and met in midair.
Gathagan walked off with a “two-inch gash” in his head and Groff remained on the field for several minutes with a cut above his eye before being helped off.
Both were sent to a wellness center nearby, and each coach said they will monitor the situation to check for concussions in the coming days.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps.