By Corey J. Corbin
Allied News Sports Editor
GROVE CITY — n athletics, like in life, there’s something to be gleaned from every experience.
Wednesday’s lesson for Grove City?
A game lasts an entire 80 minutes --- not a half. After a pretty even first 40 minutes of action, Mercer (2-0-1, 3-0-1) dominated the second half en route to a 2-0 Region XX win over Route 58 rival Grove City (3-1, 3-1) at Forker Field.
“It was a tough game to watch on my part,” Grove City coach Brian Beil said. “I was relatively pleased with the first half actually. The work rate was there and the guys were getting stuck in. The second half, I have nothing good to say. Mercer played like they cared and we didn’t. I had maybe four kids on the field that played like they cared and you can’t play four vs. 11. That’s all there is to it. Every kid on their team worked their hardest. We’re lucky it wasn’t (worse).”
The Mustangs got on the board with 9:23 left before the break on a Adam Braymaker goal.
After Mercer was awarded an indirect kick, sophomore Zach Juergens made a slight touch pass to Braymaker, who was standing mere feet away. Braymaker’s shot never left the ground, while making its way through several GC players forming a wall in front of keeper Justin Gildersleeve.
“Zach Juergens just touched it and Adam Braymaker just nailed it,” Mercer coach Brian Livenspire said. “That was all them. In high school, guys like to jump for no reason when the ball is coming at them, because they’re excited. He kept it low. Bray is pretty accurate on plays like that.”
Beil thought Mercer should have been awarded a penalty kick instead of the indirect kick.
“To be honest, I was surprised they didn’t call a PK,” he said. “It was certainly worthy of one, but I’m not putting the match down to that decision. There were much bigger issues than a simple set piece call. That would be completely naïve on our part.”
Late in the second half, Grove City switched formations in order to gain better scoring opportunities and it cost them.
Mercer senior Caleb Learned broke free moments after a missed breakaway and converted on his first varsity goal.
“At the end, they had to press for goals and Caleb got loose a couple of times,” Livenspire said. “Believe it or not, that was his first varsity goal.
“The first half was both ways. Grove City came out in the first half with a lot of energy like I expected they would. I thought they played very well. Joel faced some shots … they had some very dangerous scoring opportunities. I was very pleased with how my guys came out in the second half and did what they had to do. We limited their shots and their opportunities.”
The missed opportunities were another negative in a long list of negatives for the Eagles.
“We did a good job of generating our opportunities, but we didn‘t do a good job of finishing them,” Beil said. “In a tight match like this, you might only get three or four opportunities and you have to finish or you’re in bad shape.”
The Mustangs got outstanding efforts from seniors David Baver and Rich Ligo.
“We’re real pleased with the efforts of David Baver and Rich Ligo,” Livenspire said. “Neither one of them is blessed with great speed or skill, but they’re working guys and they played really well tonight.”
Livenspire was also pleased with the efforts of Braymaker, Mike Sherman, Trever Kelly, Tom Sherman and Chris Buxton.
“With Ligo and Baver, they played above what we’re used to seeing out of them, but Braymaker played what we’re used to see out of him,” Livenspire said. “He’s pretty darn good. Mike Sherman gave us some energy and when he’s on, it really helps us. Trever Kelly gave us some good stuff. Tom Sherman plugged in at fullback and did well. Chris Buxton was real solid.”
Beil credited Greg Hershberger, Mark Jaskowak, Cody Latimer, Jordan Nichols and Josiah Welker for their efforts Wednesday evening.
In other Grove City and Mercer boys soccer action, it was:
ä Grove City 3, Kennedy Catholic 1 — At Butala Stadium in Hermitage, Cabe Ritenour, Josiah Welker and Shaun Barr notched goals for the Eagles.
By Corey J. Corbin