Warren boys top Marietta 3-1 in season opener

VINCENT – For a team that didn’t allow its opponent a shot until the 44th minute of play, and only allowed three in the entire game, the Warren Warriors didn’t exactly consider Saturday’s match with the Marietta Tigers a rousing endorsement of their play.

“We may have won 3-1, but I’m not happy with it. We have a lot of work to do,” said Warren boys’ soccer coach Andrew Johnson.

Overall, the Warriors out-shot Marietta 23-3, including an 11-3 advantage in shots on goal.

But take away a span of four minutes in the first half, and the Tigers held a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard.

“We had some lapses in concentration that four minute span and Warren took advantage of it,” said Marietta boys’ soccer coach Todd Morris.

Of course, those four minutes still show up on the scoreboard, and the Warriors made the most of them as they put three balls past Marietta goalkeeper Michael Ullman, who recorded twice as many saves in the contest than his counterpart – Warren’s Heath Hutchinson – faced in total shots.

Despite their dissatisfaction with the outcome, for better than 60 minutes the game was controlled from one end of the pitch to the other by the Warriors, who employed a tough midfield to keep Marietta without a shot for 44 minutes and to just one for 78.

“We contained them (in the midfield), and tried to make them pass it backwards, not allow them to make any passes forward,” explained Warren senior midfielder Kendrick Hendrix.

By controlling the midfield, the Warriors were able to maintain possession of the ball throughout the first half, and it began paying dividends in the just the 12th minute of play.

After the Warriors won the ball in the midfield, senior Nate Robinson chipped what he intended to be a pass to teammate Aaron Mazurkiewicz ahead of the Tiger defense. Instead of a pass, the ball took a funny hop and eluded everybody on the play – including Ullman, as the ball went into the net.

Initially appearing to be an own goal, it was officially credited to Robinson and the Warriors tallied their first goal of the 2014 campaign.

Less than a minute later, Robinson and Mazurkiewicz connected on a pass with Robinson leaving no doubt as the path of the second goal as he tapped the ball over Ullman’s outstretched arms into the far corner for a 2-0 Warrior advantage.

Much like the first goal of the game, the third for the Warriors came as a result of an opportune bounce off a set piece. Leading 2-0, Michael O’Callaghan took a corner kick for the Warriors that the Tigers couldn’t contain in the box, with the ball bouncing free to senior Hayden Smith who fired a shot into the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage.

“I thought our youth showed at the start. You could tell we were a little nervous, a little uncertain what we were doing,” Morris said. “We kind of lost our focus there for a while.”

Suddenly facing a 3-0 deficit, the Tigers had to battle to keep the game from becoming a blowout, which was no easy task with the Warriors constantly controlling the ball and wearing down the Tigers with precision passing.

“We just moved around without the ball really we well, and we just kept moving the ball,” Hendrix said. “That’s all it takes to tire them out.”

Instead of faltering down the stretch and allowing the game to get out of hand, the Tigers managed to stymie the Warriors’ offensive efforts over the final 24 minutes of the first half to go into the break trailing just 3-0.

“Marietta’s a good team. They’re never going to stop working,” Johnson said.

As well as the Warriors possessed the ball in the first half, they couldn’t keep it going into the second 40 minutes of play as they struggled to counter the Tigers’ adjustments.

“I thought we regrouped well in the second half,” Morris said.

Getting their first shot in the 44th minute, the Tigers were able to steadily produce a measure of offense against the Warriors in the final half of play.

That slow, steady offensive pressure resulted in Marietta finally breaking through the stringent Warrior defense to spoil the bid for the shutout in the 78th minute of play.

After a missed strike on the ball defensively, the Warriors lost possession in their defensive third and the Tigers capitalized as Ben Dehmlow pulled ahead of the Warren defense.

As three players, including goalkeeper Hutchinson, converged in an effort to stop the run, Dehmlow’s initial shot bounced free and Justin Hammons was able to collect the rebound and put it in the wide open net.

“For spurts the last 12 minutes they (Marietta) had the better game,” Johnson said.

Despite getting on the scoreboard at the end, and their stronger second half the Tigers still couldn’t overcome the powerful offensive presence the Warriors put forth in that four minute span.

“Warren, they’ve won three districts (titles) in a row for a reason – they’re good,” Morris said.