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2-2 Deadlock

Maple Grove, Fredonia Play Like Area’s Top Teams

Maple Grove’s Eli Moore and Fredonia’s Dominic Gullo battle for possession during Monday’s nonleague boys soccer game at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

Two of the better teams and two of the better goal scorers in the area met up Monday night under the lights on Dutch Hollow Road.

The game didn’t disappoint.

Maple Grove and Fredonia battled to a 2-2 draw after 100 minutes of nonleague boys soccer with a constant mist falling and temperatures in the mid-40s.

“It was a good game,” Fredonia head coach Jim Rush said. “I’m glad we were able to schedule it. It was one of those late-minute things.”

The level of competition was what both coaches hoped for, even if the result wasn’t necessarily to their liking.

Fredonia’s Cameron Crowell looks to make a play in front of Maple Grove’s Sam Eimiller during Monday’s nonleague boys soccer game at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“Whenever we play nonleague games against teams like Fredonia, Allegany-Limestone or Southwestern,” Maple Grove head coach Cara Abbey said, “you always schedule those hoping to get good competition to prepare you for playoffs coming down the road.”

Red Dragons sophomore Eli Moore opened the scoring in the 29th minute when he took a chip pass from senior Brendan Hirliman, won the ball from a defender, tapped it past Fredonia goalkeeper Trevor Persch and then buried his left-footed shot from a tough angle for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Moore’s team-leading ninth of the season.

“I told Eli at the beginning of the season he would have a couple of games where people didn’t quite know who he was. … They quickly learned just how effective Eli Moore is all over the field,” Abbey said. ” … They had to work to shut him down. It’s not an easy task doing that.”

Luckily, the Hillbillies weren’t already in a deeper hole by that point because of the goalkeeping by Persch, who cut down a Moore breakaway early and made a diving save on a direct kick in the 17th minute to keep the game scoreless.

“He’s been training for two years to get his shot. We have him for this year and next year,” Rush said. “I’m so happy with the work that he’s put in and the effort he’s been making to get better.”

Maple Grove made it 2-0 late in the half when senior Tristan Spillane settled a ball in the 18-yard box, worked it into a shooting position and then sent a low screamer that glanced off a diving Persch and into the net just inside the goalpost. It was Spillane’s sixth goal of the season.

“Tristan is good at that,” Abbey said. “I think he’s had one other goal from that angle, too.”

Fredonia got back in the game in the second minute of the second half when its leading goal scorer, Juan Matias, was hauled down in the 18-yard box. Awarded a penalty kick, Matias made no doubt about his shot, sending a bullet into the top right corner of the net for the senior’s ninth goal of the season.

“They made a good push,” Abbey said. “Fredonia is a good team. They’ve come a long way and they’re hard workers. They showed up tonight.”

The Hillbillies made an obvious strategy change defensively and it paid off, keeping Moore from getting free on several runs like he did in the first half.

“We had opportunities in the second half. I felt in the second half we did well,” Rush said. “We changed the formation a little bit at halftime and took away some of their through stuff.”

Fredonia evened the score in the 22nd minute. The initial shot toward the goal was blocked, but Alex Rush was able to touch the rebound to Matias, who scored his 10th of the season through a jungle of defenders to make it 2-2.

“We played hard. We knew they were good. They’re one of the best teams, I think, in the section. For us to be able to compete like that and do what we did, I’m very proud of the effort,” Rush said. “I said to them at halftime, ‘We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves or we can go and do what we need to do.’ To their credit, they responded.”

The Hillbillies nearly won the game with six minutes left in regulation, but a shot rang off the goalpost and away from danger.

Maple Grove carried the play in a pair of 10-minute overtime sessions, but was unable to break through against Persch.

“That’s a good team over there,” Rush said, “but we’re a good team, too.”

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