Clarion River Strikers U14 Team Ties 2016 League Champs, Kinzua, 1-1 (04/10/17)

(By Matt Lerch)

(Photos by Matt Lerch) Evelyn Lerch jukes the Kinzua defense with Nate Megnin.

The Clarion River Strikers U14 Team traveled up along the Allegheny River to Warren Sunday April 9th, 2017 to take on the 2016 PA West Lake Division Champions, Kinzua in a match up that was sure to be a crowd pleaser.  It was a warm spring day, with the sun trying to dry up the rain soaked muddy fields that much of Western PA has dealt with for many spring sports.  Luckily, Warren’s fields were well drained and playable.  The Strikers brought 15 players to take on the champs and were ready to strike first.

Kick off was at 3PM and Kinzua immediately penetrated the ball into Striker territory for the first 3 minutes trying to squeak a shot off on goalkeeper Tyler Bingham.  The first break happened on an errant Kinzua shot when defender Wyatt Stimmel found Evelyn Lerch at midfield, who passed to Koby Buzard on a fastbreak.  Buzard’s shot was stopped by Kinzua’s keeper, emphasizing Kinzua knew this was no offense to take lightly.  As the Kinzua coaches readjusted their defense to account for this, the field opened up on both sides.

Right wing Max Southworth worked tirelessly all afternoon keeping the Kinzua midfield honest.  His first sortie found forward Riley Milliron who couldn’t break the stout Kinzua defense.  Midfielder Ryker Bingham was outstanding befuddling the Kinzua offense, using his size to match up against their superior midfielders.  Defenders Owen Kerle, Liv Weckerley, Joseph, and sweeper Jordan Thompson kept Kinzua out of the Clarion goal for the first half, frustrating a vaunted Kinzua offense to the point of exasperation.  Midfielder Nate Megnin also thwarted the Kinzua rushes to keep them out of Clarion territory.

Max Southworth splits the Kinzua Midfield.

The first half ended without a score due to the hard work on both sides of the field.  But then midway through the second half, an opening in the Kinzua defense occurred when Midi Logan Leadbetter found Max Southworth open on the right wing.  Lexi Coull sighted Koby Buzard and passed the ball as he sprinted down the left wing with a head of steam.  Knowing forward Evelyn Lerch was crashing the goal, he sent it to the North corner of the goal as Lerch was one step behind, opting to go for the body goal but missed the ball my inches.  Undeterred, Max Southworth juked 2 midfielders and found Buzard, springing from center field, entering the goalie box.  Kinzua’s goalie challenged Buzard with a defender flanking him, but Buzard prevailed with a center top shelf goal making it 1-0 Clarion.  Speedy forward Austin Coull had attempted numerous offensive combinations, but had a chance late in the half, weaving through the tired Kinzua defense and shot to the corner only to be stopped at the last minute by the keeper.  Another attempt by Kinzua was stopped again by Ryker Bingham, as he split the Kinzua midfield to keep the ball out of the Clarion zone.

After 15 saves Tyler Bingham had a shot by Kinzua’s top forward clear over his head to tie the game with 2 minutes left.  Lerch tried with Riley Milliron one last rush only to be picked off at the whistle with the game ending in a tie 1-1.

Coach Kevin Griffin, a student at Clarion University, who had Rob Coull substituting for him today, has a well oiled machine waiting for him to take the reigns, as a possible undefeated season awaits this group of veteran soccer players.  With 67 years of combined Striker experience on this squad, their resume speaks for itself.  Only Coach Griffin can mold and shape this crew into the champions they’ve been in the past and will hopefully be in 2017.  The Strikers take a break for Easter next weekend and host a double header at Clarion University Football/Soccer Field April 23rd, against Greenville and Mercer.

(Thanks to Matt Lerch for this article and photos. Keep up the good work, Strikers!!!!)