Hudson boys soccer runs past Walsh Jesuit in district final

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson midfielder Sean Durkin and Walsh Jesuit's Pryce Pitchford compete for the ball during the Explorers' 5-1 win in a Division I district final game Oct. 31 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Hudson's Caleb Junko and Walsh Jesuit's Michael DelPrete chase the ball during the Explorers' 5-1 win in a Division I district final game Oct. 31 at Hudson Memorial Stadium. Junko and DelPrete each had a goal in the game.

HUDSON — Reaching the district final game has become a standard for Hudson boys soccer.

In fact, the Explorers played in their seventh straight district final when its hosted Walsh Jesuit in the Northeast 3 final Oct. 31 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.

By contrast, it had been a while since the Warriors had played at this level Walsh coach Tony Catanzarite hopes to use a similar strategy to the one that got the Warriors to the final: Play stout defense and counterattack.

How successful were the Warriors? Catanzarite could only say "Ugh" after the game was over.

Hudson's offense was in high gear for the entire contest, as the Explorers scored a 5-1 win over the Warriors to win their first district title since 2017.

Hudson (17-1) will host a Division I regional semifinal game Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. against Massillon Jackson. Jackson defeated University School 1-0 Oct. 31 in its district final.

Walsh finished the season at 8-5-4.

Hudson captain Ben Hallis, who had two goals and an assist in the win, said it was important for a the Explorers to break through after losing in the the district final the last two seasons.

"I've been here four years," Hallis said. "We just couldn't let another one get away. I'm just happy it's not raining and we were able to win at our home field."

Hudson coach Steve Knapp payed tribute to his team's persistence on offense. The Explorers finished with a 20-3 edge in shots on goal and a 10-0 edge in corners.

"Our kids are mature," Knapp said. "Another team might have started pressing when our chances didn't go in and start playing too direct, but they stayed patient. We've got five or six guys who can handle the ball with ease."

Catanzarite noted his team's defense couldn't cope with Hudson.

"That's a very, very good team," Catanzarite said. "Our discipline that we showed against Twinsburg [in the district semifinal], we got away from it today. They took advantage of everything we did."

Hudson's ability to hit through balls and work the flanks had the Warriors on their heels from the start.

In the sixth minute, Hudson's Sean Durkin fed a through ball to Hallis, which allowed him to go one-one-on with Walsh senior goalie Liam Horgan on the left side. Hallis slotted a low shot home to make it 1-0.

Halls then created Hudson's second goal in the 15th minute, when he slid a centering ball through the six-yard box. Tyler Travis crashed the back post and blasted it home.

Although he gave up five goals, Horgan was Walsh's most valuable player. He finished 12 saves, several of which came at point-black range. Hudson also hit the crossbar twice.

Horgan's best save came in the 26th minute, when was Hudson was given a penalty kick. Quinn Groves took the kick for Hudson, but Horgan dove to his right, parried the shot and then stopped a shot on the rebound as well.

"He's our rock," Catanzarite said. "He played great gam."

"Their goaltender was amazing," Knapp said. "We created so many chances in the first half. I think we had nine or 10 quality chances. We had so many, you worry that we were not valuing those chances and it might hurt us."

In fact, Hudson was made to rue to their missed opportunities in 36th minute, when Walsh took advantage of its lone scoring chance.

Walsh leading scorer Michael DelPrete was able to hit Hudson on the counterattack, lifting a shot just over Hudson goalie Stephen Yerian. Yerian finished with two saves.

"That's how you get that 2-1 score at halftime," Knapp said.

Despite the pushback from Walsh, Hudson never showed any panic, as the Explorers attacked with impunity in the second half

The Explorere restored their two-goal lead in the 48th minute with a pretty goal.

Off a cross from the right, midfielder Nasser Tahat flicked a header backwards across the face of goal. Hallis ran onto the ball and smashed it home to make it 3-1.

Hudson then made it 4-1 in the 56th minute, when it was awarded its second penalty kick of the game off a Walsh handball in the box.

Caleb Junko took the penalty this time and smashed a shot into the low left corner.

While Hudson started to put in its reserves after Junko's goal, Walsh made its task harder in the 65th minute when midfielder Mark Onders was given a second yellow card, reducing the Warriors to 10 men.

Hudson capped the victory in the 74th minute, when captain Peter Strawbridge sent a centering ball into the six-yard box. Forward Ben Hopkins then backheeled the ball into net to make it 5-1.