By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — The long-awaited matchup between the Troy and Tippecanoe boys soccer team was everything anyone could have wanted out of it.
The only people left disappointed were the Trojans — as they couldn’t accept anything less than a win.
Tippecanoe, which has already been making an impression in its first season in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division, dominated the first half and held a 1-0 lead, but Troy controlled the second half and was able to even up the score. Trojan goalkeeper Troy Breisch then stuffed a Red Devil penalty kick in the game’s final minutes, but the Troy couldn’t use that momentum to tally a go-ahead score, and the match ended in a 1-1 draw Tuesday night at Tipp City Park.
Troy (11-0-2, 7-0-2 GWOC American North) needed a victory to maintain control of its own destiny in the division’s championship race. Instead, Tippecanoe (12-1-1, 8-0-1 GWOC American North) claimed the driver’s seat, with both teams having only one game left in league play. The Red Devils can clinch the division title when they host Butler Tuesday, while Troy will finish the regular season at home against Piqua on Oct. 11.
“You always have to try to to do it yourself. You don’t want to depend on anyone else,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said, as the Trojans need Butler’s help to stay in the running for a division title. “But you need to come out and take care of business. We tried to do that tonight, and we got a tie out of it. We wanted a win, but we didn’t get it.”
“It wasn’t a win, but it wasn’t a loss,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing said. “We go in against Butler next Tuesday, and if we come out of there with a win … conference champs.”
Troy didn’t get many chances with the ball in the first half, as Tippecanoe’s offense maintained possession for most of it — and whenever the Trojans did get the ball, the Devils limited them to one pass or one touch. Even so, Troy’s defense played well, too, by forcing Tippecanoe to take long shots that sailed high or by having Breisch intercept crosses before they could become dangerous.
“In the first half, we didn’t keep possession,” Phillips said. “We lost possession, they put the pressure on us. They won the midfield in the first half, and all we were doing was carry the ball out. We never possessed it or looked for combination play.”
“It’s one of those games, it’s a rivalry game,” Downing said. “Both teams played hard. It was what we expected. We knew it would be a close game.”
With 13:01 left in the half, though, Tippecanoe finally found enough room to sneak one in. The Trojan defense struggled to clear the ball out of the box, and Mitch Colvin was able to find Zach Bonifas in front of the goal, who redirected it in to give the Devils a 1-0 lead — and that’s where things stood at the break.
Tippecanoe got a solid chance to extend that lead in the first minute of the second half, with Miles McClurg ripping a shot that Breisch punched right back to him. McClurg hit the rebound attempt wide left — and the Devils would not see many more quality scoring chances from there.
The Trojans, meanwhile, began to put some pressure on themselves, earning a number of corner kick chances throughout the first 20 minutes of the second half. And with 18:57 to play, the finally got the game-tying goal on a play similar to the Devils’ score. Tippecanoe had trouble clearing a corner kick attempt out of the box, and the ball was headed around and popped up a number of times, with Alex Bridge finally putting it home to even up the score.
“You’ve got to be mentally focused defensively the entire game,” Downing said. “On their goal, we were like a deer in the headlights. All it takes is that one moment of not being disciplined.”
“We talked about getting possession. We talked about winning the second ball,” Phillips said. “We lost the second ball in the first half, so we talked about winning the second ball and trying to stretch them out a little bit more instead of as narrow as we played in the first half.”
The fouls began to fly both ways from there as both teams pressed to get the advantage, and with 9:52 left in the game Tippecanoe was awarded a penalty kick. Bonifas lined up to take it and went right — but Breisch made a diving stop to turn it away, preserving the tie.
“I was confident he (Bonifas) was going to make it,” Downing said. “Their goalie made a great save on it, and it was a momentum boost for them once they make that save.”
“Troy did a nice job for us,” Phillips said. “That first goal really put him down, but he came out in that second half, and that save he made was big for us.”
Troy made one last push in the final three minutes of the game, keeping the ball in Tippecanoe’s defensive end — but the Devils prevented any quality shots, and the game ended in a draw.
Troy hosts Springfield Thursday in a makeup game then travels to Tecumseh on Saturday before championship night on Oct. 11, with the Trojans hosting Piqua and the Devils hosting Butler.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.