Cuyahoga Falls and Walsh Jesuit boys soccer play to spirited draw

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies

CUYAHOGA FALLS — In high school athletics, engaged alumni can be a vital part of building a successful program.

Ample evidence of that was available Sept. 26 when Cuyahoga Falls boys soccer played host to backyard rival Walsh Jesuit at Laybourne Field.

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Both Falls and Walsh have alumni as their head coaches, as the Black Tigers' Dave Ortopan and the Warriors' Tony Catanzarite are each in their first years. The goal for both coaches is to bring back the glory days of their respective programs.

Before the match, however, Falls got a big lift from the Cuyahoga Falls Alumni Soccer Association. The CFASA presented the team with a check of $3,700, which is enough to cover the pay-to-participate fees for the entire program.

Ortopan notes the CFASA's contribution to Falls soccer is invaluable.

"It's the best alumni association in the state, by far, " Ortopan said. "They do so much for us, not only with pay-to-participate fees, but with uniforms and training. I can't say enough about our alumni. Being one myself, they're always poking their heads in to help us."

As for the match, Falls and Walsh continued their recent trend of tight contests against each other, as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw.

Falls moved to 3-5-1 on the season, while Walsh moved to 2-4-3.

The game featured a classic possession vs. pressure clash, as Walsh looked to work from the back in a 4-5-1 formation while Falls kept pressure on the Warriors and tried to counterattack.

Both coaches ended up pleased with their team's efforts.

"We'd always like to come out with a win, but we want to keep improving week by week to get ready for the postseason," Catanzarite said. "I think we did a good job with possession."

"We had moments in the match and so did they," Ortopan said. "I think possession was about 50/50. Our boys did a good job. They're dangerous on the counterattack."

With the two squads canceling each other out in the first 10 minutes, both goals in the game came in three-minute stretch.

Walsh scored first in the 11th minute when senior Michael DelPrete beat his defender to the end line and slid a centering ball into the six-yard box.

DelPrete's pass was deflected, but it came to Walsh forward Carter Madden, who rifled a shot just inside the right post to make it 1-0.

A freshman and the lone forward in Walsh's formation, Catanzarite said Madden did his job.

"Carter is another one of those kids who never stops," Catanzarite said.

"We started off a little flat," Ortopan said. "We got caught diving in there and, once they get to the line, it's hard to defend."

However, a fortunate bounce allowed Falls to equalize the game just two minutes later.

Falls was given a free kick just inside Walsh's side of the field, and defender Noah Blake took the kick. Blake's long ball eluded any Falls players, but it bounced over Walsh goalkeeper Liam Horgan, deflected off the post and into the net.

Ortopan made no apologies for getting the lucky bounce.

"We've had our fair share of bounces that didn't go our way this year," Ortopan said. "I think it all evens out in the end."

Catanzarite said the unfortunate moment didn't lessen Horgan's impact, as he finished with two saves on the night.

"We rely on Liam game in and game out," Catanzarite said. "He's been a rock for us back there and has been for years for Walsh."

With the score tied, the two teams did an effective job taking away the other team's weapons.

Walsh didn't have another clear-cut chance in the game, as Falls defense blocked numerous shots. Black Tiger goalkeeper Evan Reischman finished with four saves, as Walsh had a 5-3 edge in shots on goal and a 7-4 edge in corner kicks.

The stalemate continued for most of the second half, but Falls seemed to amp up in pressure in the game's final 20 minutes.

"We've been a second half team all year," Ortopan said. "We have grit and it showed."

Falls saw several of its forward rushes end with shots going just wide in the second half.

The Black Tigers had a great chance to win the game in the final minute, as senior Mohamed Abdulhameed was able to run into space behind Walsh's defense.

However, Abdulhameed's sliding shot was stopped on a diving save by Horgan.