AURORA — It has become a must-watch event during the last three years.
Sometimes it takes place in Portage County. Other times, it takes place in Summit County.
One way or another, if the Aurora and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy boys soccer teams butt heads, you may want to purchase a ticket.
Ethan Hoff would … even if he doesn’t have to.
“We love to play this team,” the Greenmen junior goalie said. “They’re a really respectful group of guys.”
It’s highly likely the feeling is mutual when it comes to their friends in Summit County. This particular group of young men make their home in Cuyahoga Falls.
“They’re a very clean team in general,” Aurora head coach Bibza said of the Royals. “They’re very disciplined. I like playing them. They play good soccer. They’re good boys and they’re well-coached. It’s definitely a good rivalry. It’s always a close game.”
In recent years, this showdown between two of Northeast Ohio’s finer Division II squads has turned a few heads.
In 2017, CVCA topped the Greenmen during the regular season. However, when the two teams met later in a district semifinal contest, Aurora had the final say.
Last year, the Royals earned a little bit of revenge by defeating the Greenmen. Therefore, when the two powerful teams visited the pitch once again to renew their juicy rivalry, the only question was this: Was it Aurora’s turn to demand ‘Royal’ treatment from its neighbors down south?
The host Greenmen earned a stunning upset when they defeated CVCA 2-0 Saturday at Veterans Stadium.
With the win, Aurora improved to 6-3 on the season. The Royals, who entered the contest as the sixth-ranked Division II team in a recent Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association state poll, dropped to 6-2.
Although CVCA controlled possession much of the way, Hayden Hall and Jimmy Miller scored a goal apiece in each half to claim victory for the Greenmen. Alex Bibza had both assists.
“Coming off of two losses, it feels really good to get this win and a good win at that,” Hoff said. “Ball speed was really high. We connected those small passes instead of playing it long every time.”
The Royals had a couple of balls cleared off the end line by Aurora defenders and Hoff made four critical stops, including a couple from point-blank range.
“The defense did great all around,” Hoff said. “Oscar [Mejia-Isaias] in the back did great toward the end, clearing it and stopping them down the line. Same with Hayden on the left, Mason [Bizjak] in the back toward the end and Hugo [Krondorfer] throughout the game did great. I really appreciate it as a goalie.”
CVCA threatened to score throughout the game. The Royals were particularly imposing not long after Hall gave the Greenmen a 1-0 lead.
CVCA launched attack after attack in the final 15 minutes of the opening half as Aurora’s defense was under siege.
At least it seemed that way.
Not deterred by this neverending duress, the Greenmen frustrated the Royals’ array of playmakers by calmly booting the ball out of their own end time and time again.
This list of defensive stoppers included Hoff, who had to be on his toes the entire 80 minutes.
“There definitely are some nerves,” Hoff said. “It’s really intense. I just try and stay on my game the whole time and let nothing by me.”
Since Aurora dropped down to Division II in 2017, the two teams have played in the vaunted Kent district.
Thus, the two teams could meet again later in the fall when the stakes are much higher. It’s a good bet at least one teenager in Portage County is looking forward to a rematch. In fact, that same person would be absolutely thrilled to make another appointment with his comrades on Wyoga Lake Road.
“I’d love to play them again,” Hoff said. “They’re a great group of guys.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.