PATASKALA — As Patrick Murphy’s corner kick with 18 seconds left sailed towards the front of the net, both teams and a large crowd held their breath.
But as was the case all night, it was a missed opportunity.
Watkins Memorial settled for a 0-0 tie Thursday with visiting Granville, in a game that was packed with more action than the final score would indicate.
“It was a thriller of a game. You just felt like either team would score at any minute,” Warriors’ coach Scott Spangler said. “When we get chances, we have to take advantage, especially against a scrappy team like Granville.
“We have a ton of respect for them, and it would have been great to get a win against them in our home opener.”
Blue Aces’ coach Shawn King said his team only had one day to get ready, but played well even though they changed formations.
“We went from two forwards to three, and changed from four to three in the back,” he said. “We played so poorly on defense in our first game (a 6-2 loss to Pickerington Central) that we worked for two hours straight on it.
“It hurts because we played well enough to win. We did a lot of good things. Nathan Fowler had his best game in goal as a Blue Ace.”
With 15 minutes remaining, the Warriors’ Charlie Mollenkopf found Murphy on a cross over the middle, but his shot flew just over the bar. Granville’s Drew Carlson had three chances to score in the final 10 minutes, but couldn’t quite connect, and Nathan Smith almost turned an excellent lead pass from Eliseo Taiganides into an earlier score.
With just 22 seconds left in the first half, Watkins sophomore goalie Alec Mathew made a diving stop on Tyler Thomas’ twisting drive from straight on. Mollenkopf’s 20-yard shot had just gone above the frame with about eight minutes left.
Mathew had six saves and Fowler had five. Granville outshot Watkins Memorial 17-13, but the Warriors took three corner kicks in the second half to the Blue Aces’ one.
Quite a rivalry has developed between the teams, which won’t meet again until 2013. Both are 0-1-1.
“Any time these two get together, it’s intense,” King said. “When the schedule comes out, the kids always want to know when we play them.”
Spangler said his team’s defense played “very composed. Granville puts a lot of pressure on your back row. We had some guys who played 70 minutes. They’ve worked really hard the last two weeks.”
Warriors’ captain and senior sweeper Ethan George expected a physical game.
“It was a little nasty; we knew we would bang around with them,” he said. “We had a lot of very close opportunities, and we need to capitalize.
“We’re changing our reputation. It’s a new chapter. They had four yellow cards and we had none. I’m really proud of that.”