HUDSON — Since they renewed their acquaintances after a long hiatus, the Hudson-Western Reserve Academy boys soccer rivalry has been a must-see event.
As for the Pioneers, they’ve been anxiously looking forward to knocking off their bigger and more formidable opponents.
Since the two schools renewed their rivalry, Reserve had yet to beat the powerful Explorers. That trend didn’t change Saturday.
But the Pioneers didn’t walk away with a loss either.
Host Hudson earned a tense 0-0 draw against Reserve at Hudson Memorial Stadium. The Explorers were 6-3-1 as of press time. The Pioneers were 7-1-3.
Hudson head coach Steve Knapp wasn’t particularly pleased with the end result.
"It’s disappointing," Knapp said. "It’s not their effort because we were on the ball. We had 85, 90 percent of the possession in the second half. We just couldn’t find a goal."
Longtime Reserve head coach Herb Haller, on the other hand, was thrilled.
"It’s two teams that try to play the game the right way," he said. "For everybody who was here, I thought it was a pretty entertaining game."
The Explorers, who are 14th in the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association Division I state poll, had a shot hit the crossbar and WRA had a shot smack the post in an intense first 40 minutes.
Both teams came out aggressively, which led to numerous chances inside each other’s penalty box.
"It wasn’t like we didn’t create opportunities from that," Knapp said. "We created a ton of chances. You have to make the goalie work a little bit. We sailed balls over from the 18 and inside the 18 and you just can’t do that. You have to put it on frame."
The second half, on the other hand, was a much different story.
Hudson dictated the pace for much of the way and generated many chances. The Pioneers, on the other hand, decided to clog the middle and force the Explorers to play the ball out wide or take their chances from 20 yards away or further.
"The first half was pretty even," Haller said. "Both teams had good chances. We hit the post; they hit the crossbar. In the second half, they [the Explorers] stepped their pressure higher and I think we got a little tired."
Hudson had numerous opportunities to score, including a golden chance from point-blank range in the final seconds. But Reserve, which made a habit of deflecting passes with various body parts throughout the evening, held steady to avoid a loss to its next-door neighbors.
"They [the Pioneers] defended really well," Knapp said. "They put 10 guys behind the ball, cleared it and it was enough. In the first half, they were really good. They were trying to press. In the second half, they sat and wanted to play for a tie."
The Explorers had a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal and a 6-2 edge in corner kicks. Hudson goalkeeper Stephen Yerian made five saves, while WRA goalie Sebastian Staddon stopped three shots.
The Pioneers, whose only loss was to Kent Roosevelt earlier in the season, are ranked sixth in the Division III state poll.
"We’ve had a good run," Haller said. "Hopefully, we can take some of the good things that we did in this game and continue that with the games we have left in the season."
While the game featured a good crowd and lots of intensity, both coaches downplayed the rivalry.
"We have so many quality games in our league," Knapp said. "We like playing this game because they’re well-coached and they’re a quality team. Maybe we should take it a little more seriously. This is a Saturday game for us. This is a game to tune up for our league."
When the game between the two neighboring schools first returned after a two-decade hiatus, the 44236 ZIP code was represented heavily whether the boys wore blue or green.
Not any more.
"I don’t have a lot of Hudson kids on my team," Haller said. "When my son Kurt was a senior, I had 15, 16 Hudson kids. Any time our roster has more local kids, this game takes on a little bit more meaning.
"I think our kids looked at it as an opportunity where we’re playing a very good program. We consider ourselves a strong program. It wasn’t about the Hudson-Reserve rivalry."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.