AURORA — It had no conference implications and they won’t butt heads in postseason play.
Nonetheless, it was Aurora vs. Twinsburg in boys soccer action.
The battle of Route 82 will always be relevant for these two proud programs.
On this day, the Tigers got two first-half goals to edge the host Greenmen 2-1 in a Suburban League crossover showdown Saturday at Veterans Stadium.
Twinsburg controlled the tempo in the first 40 minutes and its defense was able to hold off a far more aggressive Aurora squad after halftime.
"We're really hoping (Saturday) is the start of something that we can continue with Nordonia (on the road next Tuesday) and continue to get ready for the playoffs," Lally said. "This is a really competitive group of guys. I think they will be fine."
The Greenmen also are hoping to use this experience to prepare for the postseason.
After a letdown at Copley (5-1 loss) Tuesday that ended any hopes of another Suburban League American Conference title, Aurora has dropped two straight games.
However, the Greenmen made some adjustments after the break that led to many opportunities in Tigers’ territory.
"We just talked about being composed, playing to feet and taking what they give us," Aurora second-year head coach Jason Bibza said. "They dropped their wingers back to play a little more defensively.
"To the kids' credit, they took what was being given. When we just started playing two-touch soccer, switching fields, moving the ball around, we started taking over a little bit."
Ultimately, Twinsburg’s effort in the first half proved to be enough.
Both of the Tigers’ goals took place in the final seven-plus minutes of the half.
Twinsburg got on the board when senior forward John Szydlowski played a long through ball toward the middle of the field.
The ball eventually landed at the feet of freshman forward Cameron Griffin, who got past a Greenmen defender, took a few dribbles and easily beat senior goalkeeper Jacob French with a chip over his head and into the net.
The Tigers got their second goal with 24 seconds left.
Junior defender Connor Gantous was tripped in Aurora’s penalty box. As a result, Twinsburg was awarded a penalty kick and Szydlowski buried his shot into the middle of the net.
Less than 30 seconds after he converted his set piece, Szydlowski had a free kick hit the crossbar.
The Tigers also had a penalty kick hit the post a little more than 13 minutes into the game.
"I thought Jon Szydlowski played a great game," Lally said. "He hit a cracker of a shot. I thought the guys did really well. It's homecoming, so we'll take the result."
The Greenmen, who spent most of the first half chasing Twinsburg attackers, let their offense loose in the second half.
Aurora finally got on the board with a little more than nine minutes remaining.
Since the Tigers’ defense clogged the middle for much of the final 40 minutes, the Greenmen felt their best chance was to play the ball to the outside.
They played that strategy to a T when freshman forward/defender Zach Geier got the ball on the right side and made a pass in the middle of the Tigers’ box.
Aurora’s leading scorer, senior forward Cooper Bizjak, charged after the ball and headed it into the net.
"The boys kind of came together," Bibza said. "We won the second half. I would have liked to have 10 more minutes to play. That's the way you want to finish a game. I think we played a second half that we can be proud of."
The Greenmen had a corner kick two minutes later, but Twinsburg’s defense stood tall and successfully protected its goal the rest of the way.
"(Senior defender) Jack Benak did a nice job holding the midfield down," Lally said. "For us, it has been (senior midfielder) Ryan Vasiliauskas and Jason Ahern at center back, who have done a really nice job for us."
The Greenmen had a 10-6 edge in shots on goal and an 8-5 advantage in corner kicks. French finished with seven saves and Tigers senior goalie Jacob Pruett made five stops.
"I thought in the first half, we played fantastic," Lally said. "We really should have had a third goal, maybe a fourth.
"In the second half, they pressed. We need to be a little better in our counter because there was a lot of space to play."
Aurora has had injury issues throughout the fall. While the Greenmen don’t have all of their horses in the stable, they are about as healthy as they’ve been since the season began.
"It's a good tune-up before the tournament," Bibza said. "It should be an indicator that we can use the lessons of these two games, back to back.
"One, we want to see how things go south whenever you panic a little bit. The other is when you stay positive and keep believing in your teammates and encourage them a little bit, you start to play simple and get back to playing the soccer you're comfortable playing."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.