WELLSBURG - Steubenville Big Red and Steubenville Catholic Central went at each other as only city rivals can during their Ohio Valley Athletic Cup quarterfinal match Monday at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
In the end, the Crusaders survived a relentless attack by Big Red, what looked to be a game-tying goal and playing the final seven minutes a man down due to a red card to bring home a 2-1 win and advance the OVAC Cup semifinal. Central faces Morgantown, 4-3 winners over Weir, at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"It was definitely good to get the win," said Central head coach Steven Kopcha. "It was very memorable, especially with the two Steubenville schools playing in a very competitive game.
USING YOUR HEAD — Steubenville Big Red’s Bryan Brown heads the ball away from Steubenville Catholic Central’s Leo Herrmann during the Crusaders 2-1 win over Big Red in the OVAC Cup semifinals Monday at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
-- Fred Younce
"It was hard-fought both ways. Especially, too, being in the OVAC tournament, it's a big win for us tonight."
Added Big Red head coach Greg Bowers of how his team played against their city rival,
"We had plenty of opportunities, but that's been our story all year. We have to work on finishing.
"We played our game. We went hard for the ball. We were fair with our challenges. We had no problem with how our players handled the game."
The Crusaders' game-winning goal was scored with 35:58 left in the second half when Pat Hernon set up Leo Herrmann, who made a terrific move past two defenders and lasered a shot just past diving goalkeeper John Paul Duff's hands for the 2-1 Central advantage.
Though no more goals were scored, things only got more interesting from there.
About two and a half minutes after the Herrmann goal Big Red appeared to tie the game at 2-all. Jorge Dominguez took a through pass and beat Central's John Bolster, but the whistle blew, and the referee called offsides to nullify the tie.
"We thought we had the equalizer in the second half, but that's part of the game," said Bowers. "What we are happy with is the kids played hard the entire game.
"We turned the performance around from last week (Central's 2-0 Thursday win over Big Red) where I thought the possession was dominated by Central, and we flipped it completely the other way today. Unfortunately the result wasn't what we wanted."
Both teams' had attack opportunities, but Big Red kept a strong advantage in attack time against the Crusaders. On multiple occasions the black and red came close to tying the match, only to see Bolster knock shots high, or watch shots miss just wide.
Things swung strongly to Big Red's side with about seven minutes left. The Crusaders were given three cards on the night, unfortunately for Central, two were to the same player, which resulted in an automatic red card, giving Big Red a man advantage down the stretch.
"The officiating is the officiating and those were the calls on the field," said Kopcha. "Whether I agree or disagree doesn't matter. Officiating is part of the game."
The Crusaders held strong over that time though. Bolster and his defense had answers time and time again over the final seven minutes to Big Red nonstop attack.
"Definitely everybody on that field did a tremendous job playing defense," said Kopcha. "We gave up the goal in the goal in the first half and we kind of tightened up things after that.
"We did a good job of limiting their chances after that, especially going down a man. To be able to finish with that defensive effort, give them a lot of credit."
In the end the Crusaders, led by Bolster's eight saves in net, held on for the 2-1 win.
Big Red scored the game's first goal on a Stefano Lanni shot almost 12 minutes into action.
The Crusaders knotted things at 1-all when John-Paul McNamara sent a free kick across the field that big Red couldn't clear, allowing Cuyler Ledyard to blister a shot past Duff.
With the win in the books, the Crusaders now prepare to face the Mohigans.
"We know very little about them other than they're in the tournament as well," said Kopcha. "We're sure it's going to be a very competitive game. We'll surely be challenged by what they have to offer.
"Hopefully we'll get a couple good days of practice in, and we'll go at it with them on Saturday."