September 19, 2014
By Jordan Holland – Sports Writer (jholland@@mariettatimes.com) , Marietta Times
VINCENT – For 79 minutes and 52.5 seconds, neither Warren nor Athens could find the back of the net in a pivotal Southeastern Ohio Athletic League soccer match.
But with 7.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Warren freshman Zed Strahler out-ran Athens defenders to an Aaron Mazurkiewicz pass down the field and knocked it past the goalkeeper to give the Warriors a 1-0 victory.
“Pretty much, I just saw my opportunity,” Strahler said. “Coach tells us at practice to never give up and always go for it even if you don’t think you can make it. We just worked together as team and won the game.”
Warren senior Nate Robinson (8) goes on the attack as Athens’ Danny Pagan (9) pursues during SEOAL boys’ soccer action in Vincent Thursday night. The first-place Warriors won 1-0.
“(Strahler) was there and had a good finish,” said Warren coach Andrew Johnson. “I’m just glad he was there.
“In the last minute it’s helter skelter. There wasn’t a lot of possession. Aaron just won the ball, looked up and tried to slot him. I think their center back had stepped to take away one of our center mids and Zed just found the space.”
Athens head coach Isaac Thomas furiously contested that Strahler had gone offsides on the play, but the call was not made and Strahler took advantage by finishing the play with an accurate shot to the upper-right corner of the goal.
Warren 1, Athens 0
Athens (7-2-2) 0 0 – 0
Warren (9-1-1) 0 1 – 1
W – Zed Strahler goal, Aaron Mazurkiewicz assist, 79th minute
Shots: A – 10, W – 15
Keeper saves: A – 8 (Sam Conrath-Sweeney), W – 5 (Heath Hutchinson)
Corner kicks: A – 4, W – 5
Next match: Warren at Jackson at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“No,” replied Strahler when asked if he thought he was offsides. “I saw the defense push up because there was so little time. I stayed on the line and I knew where I was.”
Johnson added “Honestly, I think it was too close to tell. That’s a bang, bang play.”
The teams were mostly even in the first half as far as possession of the ball. Warren began breaking through and applying more pressure on the Bulldogs’ defense throughout the second half, but was unable to capitalize until the final seconds.
“If you look at the whole match it was pretty even,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty evenly-matched teams. We just got through. The work ethic was there. It’s just the bounce of soccer, you know what I mean? We both had chances and we finally finished one of our chances. That’s the only way you can really put it.”
Coming off a 6-3 loss to John Glenn in their last match, the Warriors were looking for a bounce-back win and got one. Prior to allowing six goals to Muskies, the Warren defense had surrendered just two goals all year.
Johnson admitted it was nice to see the Warren D get back on track.
“We had an off game against John Glenn,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to learn to play without Seth Hall, one of our really good players. Shut down defender, leader on and off the field and having him hurt we’ve moved kids around, out of position a little bit. We’re learning how to play through. It just takes time, you know?”
Warren keeper Heath Hutchinson racked up five saves en route to recording a clean sheet. His counterpart, Sam Conrath-Sweeney, saved eight Warren shots but could not stop Strahler’s kick in crunch time.
Nate Robinson, Warren’s leading scorer this season, came close a few times to giving Warren a first half lead. In the 17th minute, Robinson had an open look at the goal but Conrath-Sweeney made diving save on his shot to preserve the scoreless tie. Twice in the first half Robinson had shots roll just a inches wide of the goal and, in the 33rd minute, had one ricochet off the crossbar.
Seven minutes into the second half Robinson took a shot that went between Conrath-Sweeney’s legs but the Athens keeper recovered in time to prevent the ball from going through.
However, it was the shot that did go through in the final seconds that will be talked about by Warren and Athens fans alike.
For Athens (7-2-2), the loss was its second in the league as it fell further behind in the SEOAL standings. Warren (9-1-1) remained undefeated in the league with the win and will visit second-place Jackson Tuesday.