SOUTH AMHERST — On paper, it looked like it might be a little one-sided.
But when old rivals Firelands and Vermilion get together in any sport, forget how it looks on paper.
The Sailors (5-6-2) and Falcons (10-1-1) squared off in a non-conference match Monday night and it turned into the kind of thriller you’d expect from backyard soccer rivals — a hard-fought, scoreless tie.
It was Senior Night for the Falcons.
For Firelands, this nail-biter was a good tuneup for a big Patriot Athletic Conference finale at Wellington on Saturday. If they win, the Falcons can do no worse than tie for the PAC championship.
Except for shots and shots on goal, the statistics were nearly as even as the score. The Falcons got more shots away, 14-7, and put eight on frame. This forced Sailors goalkeeper Colin Pawlowski to make nine saves, several of them more than just routine.
Pawlowski and the Vermilion defense were under especially heavy pressure the final 12 minutes.
“I wasn’t too concerned because I’m confident in myself,” Pawlowski said. “I stopped all the balls that they shot at me. I just did what I do best, keep the balls out of the net.”
Which he did with the help of the defenders — Alex Nunn and Ross Lewis among them — and midfielders in front of him.
“The midfield came back and helped a lot,” Pawlowski said. “We really needed that, otherwise it could have been a different story. I really appreciate our midfield coming back like they did.”
All of which doesn’t detract from the work of Falcons keeper Bryce Bartolotta, who posted his ninth shutout of the season, and the Firelands defenders.
“They worked really hard,” Bartolotta said of the Falcons defense. “James Keressi, the sweeper, he cleans up everything back there. Gus Tapper, nothing gets past him and he wins all the headers. But the whole team works hard, and that’s why we have so much success.”
It looked as though Firelands had scored the winner when senior Nate Yorks found the back of the Sailors net in the 73rd minute. But it was nullified when the Falcons were whistled offside on the play.
The Vermilion’s best chance came early, when Justin Delaney fired a rocket that made Bartolotta go to work. The Sailors also had several corner kicks, and led the statistic, 3-0. But they couldn’t capitalize on the chances.
“This was fun, an exciting high school match where everybody got their money’s worth,” Falcons coach Kennie Searight said. “There were a lot of exciting plays all the way down through the 80 minutes.”
Of their late attack, Searight said: “We really pushed. This is a good local rivalry. We have a lot of kids who are friends with kids on their team, so it gives them both that extra incentive, to make that push at the end and get after it.”
Vermilion coach Chris Adkins agreed.
“Two good teams played hard all the way to the end,” Adkins said. “It was exciting and a 0-0 tie was probably the best thing for both teams.”
He praised the work of his keeper, Pawlowski.
“He’s come up huge all year long,” Adkins said. “Tonight Alex Nunn and Ryan Myracle were great as they have been all year, stopping through balls and thwarting attacks all night long.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRELANDS 0, VERMILION 0
SAVES: (V) Colin Pawlowski 9; (F) Bryce Bartolotta 3.
GOAL KICKS: Vermilion 8, Firelands 8.
CORNER KICKS: Vermilion 3.
OFFSIDE: Firelands 3.
FOULS: Vermilion 9, Firelands 10.