Rangers Prevail in Riverwood Cup Rivalry
The LHS boys soccer team won the Riverwood Cup Saturday night by defeating Rocky River on penalty kicks. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in their annual season-ending game. Just like last year, they agreed to decide ownership of the Cup by having penalty kicks. The Rangers won the penalty kicks 5-4 to retain the Cup, but the game will be officially recognized by the OHSAA as a draw. The Riverwood Cup is presented annually to the winner of this rivalry game between two close-knit and enthusiastic soccer communities. Playing an intense season-ending game like this is good preparation for both squads before their OHSAA state championship tournaments begin next week.
Lakewood entered the game 11-4 and riding a six game winning streak; Rocky River, the #4 ranked Division II team in Ohio, had a record of 10-3. The Rangers had possession for most of the first five minutes, but were unable to score. Rocky River settled in and the game remained scoreless as each side had some early opportunities. Ranger keeper George Hericks had a save against Dylan Keeling in the 23rd minute. The Rangers had a pair of shots around the 30 minute mark, one from Malvin Gblah and a header from Jack Heuter. A minute later Hericks saved a shot from Jacob Bergin, keeping the game scoreless.
The Rangers drew first blood in the 32nd minute, when Gblah fired a beautiful goal into the net with 8:13 remaining in the first half. Hueter provided the assist on the goal, which sent the large contingent of Ranger fans into a frenzy. Lakewood had a 1-0 lead, but the Pirates maintained pressure through the rest of the half. Hericks had a two more saves and fielded some crossing passes to keep the score 1-0 at the intermission.
Lakewood extended the lead in the 49th minute. Brennan Foran scored off a Gblah assist with 31:27 remaining in the game. That made the score 2-0, again igniting the Ranger crowd. However, the Pirates would not go down without a fight. Michael Konrad narrowly missed a header off a free kick in the 67nd minute, and Hericks made a great save off a Kern shot midway through the second half. Thirty seconds later Rocky River had a corner kick, and this time Kern scored with a header. Dylan Keeling had the assist, and the game stood at 2-1 with 19:25 remaining. River struck again in the 70th minute, when Chris Welch scored off a throw in. Konrad assisted on the equalizer, which came with 10:26 remaining in the game. Despite high energy on both sides, neither team was able to score in the remainder of regulation. The game officially ended in a 2-2 draw.
Lakewood shot first in the penalty kicks, which would determine who holds the Riverwood Cup for the next year. Foran scored on the opening kick, and was matched by Kern for the Pirates. Rangers Hueter, Isaac Karel, and Attila Nagy would each follow with a successful kick, then be matched by the Pirates. The teams were even at 4-4 when Gblah scored to make it 5-4. The next Pirate shooter went right against Hericks, who dove correctly and knocked the ball away from the goal. Lakewood prevailed 5-4, keeping the Cup. The joyous team hoisted the prize before the Ranger students and fans, who celebrated the end of a strong 11-4-1 regular season. The season also featured a 2-0 win in the Community Cup game against St. Edward, earning the Rangers both pieces of rivalry hardware.
The Rangers earned a bye in the first round of the OHSAA tournament, and will host their first game on Saturday, October 21 at Garfield Middle School. The 7 p.m. kickoff will be against the winner of a first round game between Lincoln West and Garfield Heights.
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1