In a rivalry game, a tie is like kissing your sister ... school.
The high school boys soccer game between host Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington on Sept. 5 began with an offensive explosion but quickly turned into a defensive battle, resulting in a 1-all tie.
"Obviously, you want to win every game, but even more so when it's a big rivalry game," said Kilbourne coach Jon Sprunger, whose team was 4-0-2 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 11. "At least we're still unbeaten and there doesn't seem to be many unbeaten (Division I) teams in the Central District."
Senior midfielder Ben Frazier scored two minutes into the game to give Thomas a 1-0 lead.
"We scored early just like we did against Gahanna (in a 2-1 loss on Aug. 29)," Thomas coach Carlos Bonilla said. "But in that game, we got back on our heels and lost aggressiveness for the rest of the first half. Even though Kilbourne tied it up right after that, we were re-awakened and gave a great effort for the full 80 minutes for the first time this season."
Kilbourne freshman midfielder George Pearon scored less than two minutes after Frazier, giving him two goals and an assist in his first six varsity games.
"We had three great opportunities to break the tie, but (the Cardinals') defense did a great job knocking (the ball) off the line," said Sprunger, whose team had won four in a row after opening with a 1-all tie against Hilliard Bradley on Aug. 20. "They did a good job challenging a lot of shots, but the three I'm talking about, their back line got their feet or head on the ball to redirect it."
According to Bonilla, the Cardinals received strong play from senior defenders Stephen Withers and Hunter Young and sophomore defenders David Alex Medina and Ezekiel Morris against the Wolves.
"We were without (senior defender) Tommy Hoerauf due to injury, but we stayed disciplined in the back and we grew as a unit," said Bonilla, whose team was 2-3-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Dublin Coffman on Sept. 10. "Morris has great speed and I think we're starting to find the right combinations and jell."
Both of the Cardinals' goalkeepers saw playing time against Kilbourne. Senior Michael Bee started and made two saves and junior Alex Nesterov had five saves. Bee allowed the goal by Pearon.
Entering the week, Thomas had allowed nine goals in six games and Kilbourne had given up just two goals in six games.
According to Sprunger, the Wolves have been led defensively by senior defender Carter Grimm, who has returned to the lineup after playing for the Crew Academy last fall, and senior goalie Joey Cipicchio, who had three saves against the Cardinals.
"Those two are our experienced leaders and stay calm back there," Sprunger said. "Grimm keeps them cohesive and Cipicchio is the best keeper in central Ohio, if not the entire state. (Defenders) Clark Moats and Alex Nash have been fantastic as sophomores on either side of Grimm."
Thomas lost to host Massillon Jackson 3-2 on Sept. 7. Jackson was ranked sixth in the Division I state poll last week.
DeLuca helps Thomas girls edge Kilbourne
Freshman forward Grace DeLuca dribbled into the box and scored on a shot to the far post with 25 minutes left, lifting the Thomas girls team to a 2-1 win over host Kilbourne on Sept. 5.
The outcome snapped a four-game winning streak by the Wolves and extended the Cardinals' unbeaten streak to four games.
"Grace DeLuca has been a workhorse for us and she made a nice move and gave us the goal we needed," said Thomas coach Tim Barton, whose team was 3-3-1 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Central after losing to Coffman 1-0 on Sept. 9. "Grace and (junior) Jenna Szabo are an effective 1-2 punch at forward. They have speed and skill and they complement each other. They move the ball with each other and that combination is getting stronger every game. It's exciting to watch."
The Cardinals had scored 21 goals through seven games after scoring 26 last season when they finished 6-10-2.
"It's almost the opposite of last year when we were praying for one goal because our defense was so strong," Barton said. "We had to replace a lot of the defense this year. Hopefully, our defense will come around and we can keep some clean (scoresheets) so we're not forced to score two or three times every game."
The Cardinals scored 12 minutes into the game when senior midfielder Kendra Reevis-Nixon tapped in a low crossing pass from sophomore midfielder Maddie Hamilton.
Kilbourne tied the game at 1 midway through the first half when senior forward Kelley Zebrowski scored on a rebound. On the play, Cardinals goalie Bethany Geiser made a save but couldn't corral the ball.
"Any win is a good win," Barton said. "We struggled to cap off games against Hilliard Darby (1-all tie on Aug. 31) and Pickerington North (2-1 loss on Aug. 24). So to put it together and finish strong against a good Kilbourne team is a positive. It's always a good game when we get together. It doesn't matter if one of us is near the top of the central Ohio teams and the other is struggling. It's just always a good game."
Kilbourne was 4-2-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Sept. 11.