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Brooke, Big Red tie while getting ready for tourney

IN PUSUIT — Big Red’s Josh Zeiler and Brooke’s Eddie Marks chase the ball during Wednesday’s match on the grass pitch at Brooke High School. - Andrew Grimm

WELLSBURG — With the tournament looming large around the corner for both teams, Brooke and Big Red’s boys soccer teams battled to a 2-2 tie Wednesday night on the grass field at Brooke High School.

Brooke scored the first and third goals to have two leads, but each time, Big Red battled back.

“It prepares you for the tournament, especially playing a team like Brooke that we respect,” Big Red coach Greg Bowers said. “It had a tournament feel to it. Us and Brooke have a rivalry and we got after it tonight.”

Steubenville (6-7-4) tied the match with a little over 2:00 remaining in somewhat controversial fashion when the referee called a hand ball on the Bruins (8-8-2) and awarded a free kick.

After the refs sorting out the clock and getting everyone properly aligned, Big Red’s Anthony Vendetti fired the ball home to even the score and 2-2 and force the tie.

As much as Brooke coach Joe Pepe didn’t like the call, his team being in position to win after falling to Big Red on the same field in the OVAC semifinals last month showed signs of growth for his young group.

“For a young team, they played a lot better of a game this second time against Big Red,” Pepe said. “I’m so proud of the team. They really stepped it up. We had one (player) out on defense, these guys are stepping up and playing positions they aren’t used to playing.

“Playing in a game like that gets you ready for the tournament. Big Red is well-coached and they have a good team. They will be ready to go for their tournament. I wish them luck.

“We need to play good competition, the other night we played Wheeling Central, came back from a 3-0 deficit and tied it, and lost 4-3. These games get you ready for the state playoffs.”

For Big Red, on the other hand, the ability to battle back in what was its last regular season game bodes well for the tournament next week when Bowers’ group goes to Minverva on Monday.

“We got down first and tied it, got down again, and we didn’t put our heads down, we kept chipping away,” Bowers said. “I give our guys credit for not giving up, but we have plenty to work on before Monday if we’re going to make a tournament run.”

Brooke’s Ben Ferguson opened the scoring in the fifth minute on an assist from Devin Cipoletti, then Big Red’s Matt Loot tied things at 1-1 with an assist from Theo Loot in the seventh minute.

In the second half, Brooke’s Evan Urso connected with an assist from Eddie Marks in the 64th minute for the 2-1 Bruin lead before the late goal from Big Red forced the tie.

While Big Red does not see the field again before the tournament, Brooke has its home regular finale to look forward to on Saturday against Grafton before opening sectionals against Morgantown.

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