BOYS SOCCER: Second Season: Dragons advance to D10 semis with win over Girard

HARBORCREEK – It was a roller coaster of a regular season for Warren’s boys soccer team. The Dragons lost seven straight to start the season, then went five matches without a loss, and back to losing three of four to close it out.

But that was then.

Despite finishing 5-10-1 overall, the Dragons qualified for the District 10 Class AA playoffs once again – for the fourth time in Tom Harrington’s four years as head coach; this time due to a 5-2-1 record in Region 4. Bradford was region champion, but competes in the District 9 and won that Class AA title on Monday.

For all intents and purposes, Warren is 1-0. The Dragons defeated Girard, 3-0, on Monday in the District 10 Class AA playoffs at Harbor Creek High School.

Warren was crisp and on the attack the entire match, and advances to the D-10 semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Region 2 champion Wilmington (11-4-1) at General McLane’s Linden Field.

“We came out fast,” said Harrington, whose Dragons outshot Girard 10-3 in the first half, and possessed the ball far more than Girard. “The boys followed the game plan… and after we got that first goal, the energy kicked up another notch.”

Warren really pressed Girard’s goalie the last 15 minutes of the first half to get that first goal. At 14 minutes left in the half, Ben Auzou struck the goalie and the ball rebounded to Ryan Gustafson, who also forced a save. A Gustafson shot was saved a minute later, and Warren had Girard on its heels. Just over a minute later, a Warren free kick resulted in Simon Smith knocking the ball off the goal post.

With nine minutes left in the half, though, Warren’s domination of possession came to fruition. Smith kicked the ball over the defense to a sprinting Auzou, who also popped a kick up – this one over the Girard goalie, and the ball bounced into goal for a 1-0 lead.

The Dragons kept the pressure on; a perfect example may have been Quinn Boger’s 10-or-so-second battle to gain control of a ball to keep possession about 20 yards from goal.

Boger’s hustle also resulted in a 2-0 lead at half.

With just over five minutes left, Max Gross took a shot from about 40 yards out with Boger streaking down the middle of the field. The ball hit the goalie right in the chest but Boger didn’t give up on the play. When the goalie muffed the kick and it squirted out of his hands, Boger ate it up and booted it into a wide-open goal.

Boger had been beating defenders to the outside most of the first half.

“Within the first 10 minutes I could tell we were playing a little stronger,” said Boger.

Warren’s offense wasn’t even finished in the half. Though the Dragons didn’t score again in the half, beautiful passing from Andrew Stanton to Tyler Mealy to Gustafson nearly resulted in another goal with a minute to go, but the shot went just wide.

Warren didn’t hold back in the second half. Smith found a streaking Boger down the right side, and Boger blasted a shot from the right untouched into the left side of the net for a 3-0 lead.

Warren outshot Girard 18-8 for the game, and Girard’s keeper had a couple nice saves off Boger shots, and a beautiful diving save on a Bryce Bauer line drive. Smith also played a tremendous offensive game.

Harrington said the 0-7 start was, in part, due to “the toughest schedule we possibly could handle,” he said, and also some bad circumstances and adversity. But it helped develop the team Warren has now.

“So we had to make some adjustments,” he said. “These guys have… developed into fine soccer players.”

Boger said the team had three returning starters from last year’s team and had play under several “different formations… until we found our niche.

“I definitely feel we’re capable of winning on Wednesday,” he said.