BRUNSWICK, Oh - On Saturday, October 29, the Wildcats soccer team faced off against the Shaker Heights Red Raiders in the OHSAA District Final. The Wildcats entered the game after beating Midview by a decisive 6-0 score, while the Raiders entered after a come-from-behind 4-2 win against North Ridgeville. This would mark the eighth time the Wildcats have played Shaker Heights since Head Soccer Coach Mike McLaughlin '85 took over the program, the Wildcats winning all seven of the previous games.
The two teams also faced off during the regular season, in which the Wildcats won 4-0. The Raiders were hoping for revenge, hoping to take down the mighty Wildcats.
The pregame coin flip would favor the Wildcats, who would choose to have the wind at their back for the first half, while the Raiders happily agreed to take the ball on the opening kickoff. The Raiders would try to catch the Wildcats off guard on the kickoff. Immediately after passing the ball backward, Shaker back Jake Pernsteiner would fire the ball forward to serve the ball into the box for a swift goal. Much to the dismay of the Raiders, their plan would be foiled as the ball would connect with the head of Wildcat Thomas Nader, heading it out of harm's way.
Upon their early offensive failure, the Raiders would fall back into the incredibly defensive 5-4-1 formation they had used against the Cats in late September.
The Raiders' defensive tactics would be at least somewhat effective, as it would manage to hold the incredibly talented Wildcat attack off the board for 35 minutes. Still, it only proved to delay the inevitable. The inevitable would come in that 35th minute, as Zsombor Onodi would play a through-ball to Nolan Spicer, who snuck under the outstretched arm of Shaker's Joe Brancato, took a touch, and put the ball in the back right of the net.
Upon falling behind, the Raiders would switch out of their specially tailored 5-4-1 formation in favor of their more common and less defensive 4-4-2 formation. The formation change would instantly show its effect, as less than ten minutes after their first goal, the Saint Ignatius side would tally another. Playing the ball from midfield, the Cats would swiftly penetrate the line of Shaker midfielders, and with the ball at his feet, Nolan Spicer would play a ball forwards to Owen Sullivan, who fired a shot from a step inside the 18-yard box to the far post and scored.
Despite earning a multi-goal lead, the Wildcats were not done exploiting the Raiders' defensive weakness. Less than a minute later, Nathan Trickett would thread a pass through three lines of Shaker Heights players. Nolan Spicer, who started more than three yards behind Raiders center back Will Taigen, would show his speed and run past Taigen to the ball. Upon winning the ball, he would take a touch around the Shaker goalkeeper and quickly chip the ball over his head for a goal.
Six minutes later, after fielding a throw-in, goalkeeper Patrick McLaughlin would find Zsombor Onodi in an isolated one-on-one at midfield with Shaker Sophomore Wyatt Roth. Feeling confident in his leading goalscorer, McLaughlin played the ball up to Onodi, who won the ball and took an effortless touch past Roth, leaving Onodi with nothing but turf between him and the Shaker goalkeeper.
In a last-ditch effort to stop a sure goal, the Shaker midfielder grabbed Onodi by the neck, wrapping his arm around it, preventing Onodi from getting to the ball. The referee immediately blew his whistle and assessed a red card to Roth, sending him off the pitch. This ejection would leave the Raiders to play 10 vs. 11 for the rest of the match, and already being down three goals made the already improbable comeback into a nearly impossible task.
The Wildcats would tally one final goal in the game's waning moments, as sophomore Zalan Onodi would find a rebound from a corner kick and tap it into the back of the net.
At full-time, the Wildcats had defeated the Raiders 4-0, beating the Raiders for the second time in as many games in 2022, in the process, winning their 23rd district title in program history. They advance to play a scrappy Wooster team at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday at Brunswick Auto Mart Stadium.