BY ED WRIGHT
Oct. 8, 2009, 10:25 p.m.
Everything you'd expect in a clash of cross-campus rivals battling for pride, points and bragging rights was jammed into Thursday night's Plymouth-vs.-Canton boys soccer match.
In a high-spirited, high-skilled test of wills and effort, the Wildcats and Chiefs hustled to a 1-1 deadlock in a game played in off-and-on drizzle.
The draw left Plymouth with a 10-6-2 overall mark and 7-1-2 record in the KLAA South Division. Canton is 9-7-2 and 6-3-1, respectively.
The Wildcats will take on Salem Monday at 7 p.m. in a cross-over showdown of local teams. Canton's foe Monday night was not known as of Thursday night.
Unlike the precipitation, the intensity was non-stop -- just what local high school soccer fans have come to expect when the two successful programs meet twice a year on the grassy pitch located a few yards west of Canton Center Rd.
"At the end of the game, my guys were tired, they were sweating, they had given everything they possibly could, which is all you can ask," said Canton coach George Tomasso. "I give my guys a lot of credit for the way they came back. But I give Plymouth a lot of credit, too. Both teams played their hearts out."
Following an opening 20 minutes of back-and-forth action, Plymouth struck first when leading scorer Nick Russ proved to be the eye of a hurricane-like scrum in front of the Canton net when he settled a rebound shot and rifled a rope past Chief keeper Kai Walther at the 19:59 mark.
Plymouth's Ian Griffiths nearly doubled the lead just less than four minutes later when he teed up the ball 25 yards out and ripped a low clothesline that sailed just wide right of the net.
Canton's best opportunity of the first half unfolded 9:50 before the half when Mitch Posuniak slid a brilliant pass to Brandon Tolinski, whose rush to the net was derailed at the last second by a Plymouth defender.
Russ nearly tallied his second net-finder with five minutes to play in the opening stanza. He broke free 12 yards from the goal crease and sizzled a right-footer that Walther speared with his goalie gloves.
"I thought we played a really strong first half," said Plymouth coach Jeff Neschich. "I thought we controlled the play for most of the half. But in the second half, they came out fired up and made it an even game."
In a second half that grew more physical with every passing minute, the Chiefs evened the score with 33:07 to play on a bizarre sequence. Mitch Posuniak rocketed a direct kick from approximately 28 yards out that Plymouth goalie Kyle Brindza deflected wide of the net. However, the center referee called for a re-do on the free kick because the whistle to resume play had not sounded.
On the re-kick, Posuniak again ripped a shot at Brindza, however, this time the rebound rolled out to Canton's Dan Ovesea, who deposited a shot past Brindza for the equalizer.
The Chiefs nearly connected on a slick goal with 12 minutes left when Ovesea sent a thread-the-needle cross into Bobby Budlong, whose solidly struck header sailed a few feet high of the mark.
Both teams had their chances over the final 30 minutes, but couldn't cash in against clutch goalies. Brindza stopped seven shots on the night. Laabs took over for Walther in the second half and played well, stopping five shots.