Brooke boys win first OVAC title since 2006, defeat Big Red
WELLSBURG — The Brooke boys soccer team is back on top of the mountain.
Telmo Randazzo tallied two goals in the second half to lead Brooke to the summit, as the top-seeded Bruins defeated No. 2 seed Big Red, 2-0, Saturday afternoon for the OVAC Class 5A championship.
“Great, great, it feels great,” seventh-year Brooke (9-1-1) head coach Joe Pep said. “I told these guys all week we are going to have to work hard all week. I told them we are going have to work and work. We wanted to get to the second season, and this is it. Now, we have to regroup for states.”
The victory gave the Bruins their third OVAC tournament title. Brooke captured its first conference tournament title since 2006 when John Zumpetta guided the Bruins to the champions. Brooke also won a title in 2004 under the leadership of Eric Fries.
“It means a lot for the program,” Pepe said. ” When coach Dan (Shorts) and I took over the program seven years ago, we were in rebuilding mode. It was a tough rebuild. It took time for the kids to buy in. People are set in their ways. You are dealing with young adults. We knew it was going to take time, and it did take time. We told them we had to do things this way. When these seniors came in as freshmen, we worked and worked with them for four years. They bought into program. We needed this. We are proud of them. This brings a lot to the program.
“Take nothing away from Steubenville Big Red. They were ready. They played their hearts out. They are well schooled. They know what to do. We had to fight through everything. We had to execute. The kids are on Cloud 9. I told them there would be a lot of time to celebrate.”
Tyler McMahon collected assists on both of Randazzo’s goals.
“We knew they were a good team,” Big Red (4-3-3) head coach Greg Bowers said. “We gave ourselves a fighting chance until the 17th minute mark when they were able to get one in. We give all the credit to J.P. (Walsh) and our defense for keeping us in the game. J.P. is a sophomore, and this is the best game we have seen him play. He can’t hang his head. He gave up two goals on two quality shots against a quality team.”
Walsh made 10 saves in goal for Big Red. Andrew Coursin made two for Brooke.
“We played better in the first half,” Bowers said. “In the second half, their midfielders controlled possession, and they kept putting pressure on us.”
The match was scoreless for more than 63 minutes before Randazzo headed the ball into the back of the net, giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 16:04 remaining to be played.
Randazzo recorded his second goal a little less than 11 minutes when he ripped a shot into the net with 5:37 still showing on the clock.
“The first half was even, but I thought we controlled the second half,” Pepe said. “We just could not find the back of the net until late in the second half. We kept the pressure on. Our guys are schooled to keep pushing, and that is what we do.”
Brooke outshot Big Red, 16-6. The Bruins fired 12 shots on goal, while Big Red had two.
“Coach Bowers had his team ready,” Pepe said. “Steubenville Big Red was ready. He did his homework. I guess I did my homework, too. There is a lot of mutual respect between the programs.”
Big Red was able to control the ball at different parts of the match, but it had a hard time getting shots off, especially on net. Big Red had a golden opportunity to score early in the second half, but it was unable to capitalize keeping the match scoreless.
“We had a quality chance in the first three or four minutes of the second half,” Bowers said. “Had we scored, maybe it changes the outcome.
“We are proud of the team. We are happy we were able to participate in the OVAC tournament. Give all the credit to Brooke. They are a good team. I told Coach Pepe if I had to lose, there are two coaches I would want to lose to — him and Mario (Julian) from Wheeling Park. I have a lot of respect for them. We have been doing this for a lot of years. It has been a long road for him.”
Big Red’s defense was under pressure for most of the second half, but they managed to keep the Bruins off of the scoreboard except for two quality shots by Randazzo.
“Coach Bowers built a game plan, and they followed that game plan,” Pepe said. “I knew they were going to mark a few players. I knew they were going to mark Eddie Marks, and I knew they were going to mark a few other players. They came to play. We had our marks too. It was a chess game.
“Big Red is a good team. They will be back next year. We are going to reload, and we want to be back next year.”
It took a total team effort, but in the end the Bruins were able to get the job done.
“Everyone played extremely well,” Pepe said. “They all played well. Even the kids who didn’t play, they were into the game. They had a lot of good team support.
The tournament title is Pepe’s second championship as a head coach. Pepe guided Weir to the title back in 1996 when the Red Riders defeated the Bruins, 2-1, down at Wheeling Island Stadium.
“Coach Pepe is a great coach,” Bowers said. “He’s done an outstanding job. They put a lot of pressure on us in the second half.”
PRAYERS FOR WEIR
Prior to the start of the match and following announcement, a moment of silence was held in memory of Madison Crowe and Melissa Rowland. Both were tragically killed on Thursday.
“That was devastating news,” Bowers said. “Our hearts go out to Weir High, the soccer family and the family of those two.”
A vigil for Crowe and Rowland was held Thursday night at Jimmy Carey Stadium.
“It has been a rough couple of days for the soccer community,” Pepe said. “We are wearing red wristbands. We want to support them. We wanted to do something to honor Madison Crowe and her mom Melissa Rowland.”
Big Red: Travels to Beaver Local Thursday.
Brooke: Travels to St. Clairsville Thursday.