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Norwalk, Vermilion play to another tie

By JOSH MORGRET • Updated Sep 25, 2019 at 10:09 PM

VERMILION — In a scoreless battle, you have to try to counter what the other team is doing.

Eventually, Wednesday turned into both teams try to counter the counter's countering.

What resulted was a defensive struggle, as Norwalk and Vermilion played to a 0-0 draw in a matchup of the two best teams in the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division.

The tie is no surprise. The two tied, 1-1 in Norwalk on Sept. 9.

"I am not surprised one bit (that it ended in a tie)," Norwalk coach Jon Kijowski said. "When we played them the first time, it was pretty much the same way. There were times where Vermilion looked dangerous and times we looked dangerous. Nobody was able to capitalize tonight."

Vermilion coach Kurt Innes talked about the level of excitement going into the match playing a role.

"They were excited all day for the big game," he said. "It is a balancing act of harnessing the energy and excitement and also understanding it is natural to have nerves."

The Truckers (9-1-3 overall, 7-0-2 Lake) nearly struck first within the first six minutes of the game. Jose Escobedo and Brian Morales each had a shot go off the crossbar. Morales' shot stayed in play, but was eventually deflected out of bounds as a plethora of players kicked at the loose ball.

"I am very encouraged," Kijowski said. "I think the jitters got to us a little bit tonight. When we got in front of the goal, we did things we would not normally do. Typically, we put one of those chances in the back of the net."

The game was more than 11 minutes old before the first whistle of the game even occurred. In the 13th minute, Regan Zieber had a free kick, but it went to the left of Vermilion goalie Logan Coe.

From there, the Sailors (7-0-2, 6-0-2) seemingly dominated the next 10 minutes of action. Logan Kenton had a free kick saved by Norwalk goalie Tyler Clark among the action.

"Vermilion applied a lot of pressure," Kijowski said. "Immediately after those (kicks that hit the crossbar), we got our heads down a little bit and Vermilion took it to us."

Escobedo gave it another shot in the 28th minute. This one was also on goal, but Coe used full extension to tip it up and over the crossbar.

Vermilion had four consecutive corner kicks with about five minutes to go in the half, but only got one shot — from James Matheson, which was stopped by Clark. Will Gehlhausen got one last kick in for the Truckers, but was denied.

"We came in together as we were warming up," Kijowski said. "Early on, you could see the pregame jitters. We pulled them in and told them to take a deep breathe and relax. Most of these kids have been playing soccer their whole life and we told them to focus on that."

As if the defenses were not up to the challenge, the intensity picked up in the second half. Both teams struggled to even get shots, or shots on goal. A free kick by Escobedo was pushed aside near the sidebar by Coe in the 48th minute.

"I thought in the second half, we were better at getting to the ball out of the air than we were in the first half," Innes said. "I think that helped us and we challenged more in the second half."

The back-and-forth action continued until Riley Baxter sliced his way through the Norwalk defense, but his shot was pushed out by Clark. Baxter also had an opportunity in the last 40 seconds of the game.

He got past his defender, but Kennedy Morales played a tough secondary defense, making Baxter rush his shot, which was just to the left of the goal post.

"That tells you we played a full 80 minutes," Innes said. "They got in and had one last build. I think Riley just pushed it wide, barely. That is what we need to do."

The teams will now finish up their conference schedules and prepare for tournament action in just a few weeks. Norwalk closes out the league schedule at 5 p.m. on Monday at home against Perkins. A win assures the Truckers of no worse than a title share with the Sailors.

"I thought one goal could win it," Kijowski said. "1-0 would have been a stat line I would expect. Both teams have good defense."


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