Warren's boys soccer team opened its new season on Thursday night with a difficult 3-2 overtime loss to a strong North East team at War Memorial Field.
The Dragons have a lot of goals to replace this year after the graduation of Matt Sandberg and Liam Boger, but it didn't take them long to score their first. Around nine minutes into the game, freshman Simon Smith lofted a ball over the North East goalkeeper, giving the Dragons an early 1-0 lead. Max Gross earned the assist on the goal. Warren nearly made it 2-0 five minutes later when a header smacked off the crossbar.
The Grape Pickers came out much stronger in the second half, and managed to score the equalizer as well as the go-ahead goal within minutes of each other, both coming on breakaways.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Pushing and shoving
Warren’s Joey Close tries to break past a North East player during the Dragons’ season-opening game on Thursday at War Memorial Field. Warren lost in overtime, 3-2.
North East held on tightly to its lead for the next 20 minutes, but the Dragons finally found a way to respond. With just over five minutes remaining, Bryce Bauer found Quinn Boger, who headed the ball into the side of the net, sending the Dragons bench into a frenzy.
The overtime period lasted less than two minutes, and it was the Dragons who had the first chance of scoring. Less than a minute in, Boger looked to have his second header goal of the game, only to see it bounce off the crossbar. The Grape Pickers quickly rushed the other direction, and a scrum in front of Warren goalie Clark Eason ended with the ball in the back of the net.
"We played pretty well," Warren coach Tom Harrington said. "We hit a couple right off the iron. We're a young team, and I see a lot of upswing with this team. I don't think we're as good now as we're going to be."
The two teams were evenly matched throughout the duration of the game, which is something Harrington expected.
"They're a very good team," Harrington said. "They played exactly like we thought they would. They play bunker defense, and on offense they have some really fast guys who go over our heads to look for goals."
Warren's schedule doesn't get any easier - the next three games are at Harbor Creek, home against Mercyhurst Prep and at Cathedral Prep - but it's Harrington's hope that it will make them a tougher team.
"(Warren Athletic Director) Jeff White got us the schedule I wanted to play," Harrington said. "I want to play the very best competition. A loss like this hurts now, but come playoff time, we'll be ready."
The Dragons travel to Harbor Creek on Saturday.