Warren's season got off to a thrilling start on Saturday, as the Dragons claimed a 3-2 "sudden victory" against McDowell on Saturday in a back-and-forth contest at War Memorial Field.
Despite losing several key players from last year's team, the Dragons showed that they're fully prepared for another strong season with a victory over one of the toughest teams they'll face all season.
Despite struggling to keep possession early, the Dragons broke through first when Liam Boger found Andrew Stanton on an odd-man rush 15 minutes into the game. Stanton buried his shot into the side of the net, giving the Dragons their first goal of the new season.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Above, the Dragons celebrate around Liam Boger after he buries his penalty kick in extra time to give Warren a 3-2 victory over McDowell on Saturday at War Memorial Field. Warren will travel to North East on Thursday. Below, several Warren defenders form a wall during a free kick, including, from left, Joseph Bell, Quinn Boger, Shane Burns, Tyler Mealy, Phil Hachula and Jason Stanton.
McDowell answered back, scoring two goals within minutes of each other.
The first came on a penalty - questioned by the Warren side - committed in the box. After the Trojans buried the penalty kick to tie the game, they wasted almost no time in adding a second goal.
"Phil (Hachula) is a new foreign exchange student, and he does tackle a little differently," said Warren coach Tom Harrington. "I think it was clean, but it looked different. For the second goal, the ball was bouncing around in the box and it just found a way through."
Matt Sandberg answered back for Warren, finishing from close range to tie the game.
The Dragons had several chances in the final 10 minutes of regulation to add a third goal, hitting a post as well as the crossbar, but couldn't quite find a way to finish.
In extra time, McDowell committed a handball in the box, allowing Boger a chance to step up to the penalty spot and win the game. Boger made it look easy, burying the shot as his teammates rushed onto the field to celebrate.
Warren's defense played also played a crucial role in the victory, shutting down several Trojan attacks.
"My defense was just tremendous," said Harrington. "Shane Burns, Brendan Garrett, Tyler Mealy, Quinn Boger, and Bryce Bauer were all exceptional."
The only thing that kept the Dragons from fully enjoying their season-opening victory was an injury to starting goalkeeper Nathan Sandberg. In a scary moment in the second half, Sandberg raced off of his line to grab a loose ball and collided with a Trojan player. He remained down for several minutes before being helped off and replaced by freshman Clark Eason. Harrington said after the game that Sandberg was spiked, and he didn't yet know the severity of the injury.
Joseph Bell had to come off late in the game after rolling his ankle, but Harrington said it was "just a little tweak, and he'll be fine."
The Dragons schedule won't get easier. They travel to North East on Thursday, for a rematch of last season's playoff game. The GrapePickers ruined the Dragons perfect regular season by knocking them out on penalty kicks.
"Our first seven games are really tough," said Harrington. "McDowell is very tough and so is North East. Today, we were very evenly matched and it was a hard-fought game for both sides. We were fortunate to come out of it with a victory."