OTTAWA – The boys soccer heavyweights that are Streator and Ottawa came close to being as physical a battle as any boxing match when they met Tuesday night at King Field. In the end, the visiting Bulldogs had a solid counterpunch for every haymaker the Pirates threw, and then some.
After battling to a 1-1 first half, OHS took a 2-1 lead early in the second on Gio Resendez’s second goal of the night. However, less than five minutes later, Streator tied it, and just two minutes after that took the lead on a half-the-field dribble drive by Brady Grabowski to send the Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory.
But that was just Round 1 of the matchup, with a more physical, more dramatic Round 2 for the two clubs scheduled in eight days in the first round of the Class 2A La Salle-Peru Regional.
Ultimately, Tuesday’s encounter boiled down to a five-minute stretch in the middle of the final 20 minutes in which the Bulldogs had more energy and more want, and it showed with three scores, the tying, go-ahead and insurance goals.
“Here’s the bottom line: Gio is nasty, pure nasty,” said Streator coach JT Huey, his team now 15-6. “He’s just so good, if you give that guy space, he’s gonna score, no doubt, but our guys did a good job marking up – we manned him the entire time – trying to use physicality to our advantage. That worked from an offensive standpoint, but Ottawa is smart enough to not allow that from us on our defensive side, and they got a lot of good, solid penalties out of it. It gave them opportunities, so we had to make the adjustment, because that’s too dangerous for us, and we did a better job of that as the game went on.
“This win was great, but we don’t have Ottawa’s number by any stretch of the imagination. They were in this for 60 minutes, and if you thought this game was physical and intense, the next one will be even more so.”
The punches and counterpunches came on top of each other all night, starting with Resendez’s first goal off an assist by Ethan Cela with 15:48 showing on the clock. Just over a minute later at 14:29, Davey Rashid got the equalizer after taking a pass from Jack Starkey, making a sudden-stop shake of a defender to gain a point-blank shot on OHS keeper Owen Phillips.
Ottawa (15-5-2) regained the lead 1:19 into the second half when, in a flurry in front of the Streator net, Resendez got a rebound of a Alonso Navarro shot and it bounced into the net for the lead score. But from that point on, third-string keeper Ryan Stipp and his defenders – in particular Mac Beals man-up on Resendez – kept the Pirates off the board.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs broke the game open against the Pirates’ second-half keeper Jackson Damron, getting the tying goal at the 33:31 mark from Landon Muntz after a corner kick, then went ahead on the drive past several defenders between midfield to the goal mouth by Grabowski, poking it in with 31:56 showing for a 3-2 ‘Dogs edge. Adam Williamson and Parker Phillis earned the assists.
Noah Russow added the insurance goal off a corner kick at the 28:52 mark.
“Gio is Gio. He just has a knack for finding the goal, even when he has three, four, five people on him, he still makes stuff happen,” Ottawa coach Jeff Davis said. “Tonight, Streator came out and did the same thing a lot of teams do, they bodied him well, and when that happens, we have to have other guys step up. … But when we got the momentum and got that 2-1 lead, they were able to counter, and when they got two in a row, that really took the wind out of our sails. Give them credit. They came out and played hard.
“Now having played against them, our guys know what we’re in for come regional time and are looking forward to the challenge. … I feel that will be another Streator-Ottawa matchup of one or two goals, another dogfight.”