Preppers opens season with shutout win over Akron North | Sports
Talk about how things can change in a year!
Last season, the University School Preppers football team opened the 2020 campaign with a shutout victory over Boardman.
According to coach John Ptacek, it was a great victory but the team couldn’t have a normal celebration. Due to COVID protocols, Preppers have had to distance themselves socially so that they cannot hit each other or bang their fists.
A year later, there were plenty of punches to get around when the last horn sounded. The varsity school opened its 2021 season with a 9-0 victory over Akron North last Friday night at Chilcote Field.
Ptacek said he felt like things were starting to return to normal.
“It’s great that you don’t have so many restrictions,” said the 14-year-old Preppers coach. “We are still taking precautions but it’s much easier to move forward and it’s a better atmosphere.
The varsity school’s first goal (1-0-0) of the season came when midfielder / junior striker Aiden Ptacek scored in the 13th minute of regulation thanks to an assist from the second-year midfielder Braeden Piero.
The Preppers doubled their lead when Vikings junior goalkeeper Shashigen Subba fouled for getting his hands on the ball outside the penalty area. Junior defender Connor Piero managed a 2-0 game after converting the penalty in the 24th minute. Th Preppers scored two more goals to take a 4-0 lead in half-time,
The Preppers were very aggressive in the first half as they recorded 13 shots at the net while Akron North did not manage a single shot at the Preppers’ net.
It didn’t take that long to ignite the offense in the second half as senior defender Joey Cervino scored his first goal of the year with an assist from senior striker / midfielder Connor Van Winkle to the 43rd minute of play.
Aiden Ptacek scored the next three goals in the span of seven minutes to put the game out of reach and finished with a game-high four goals. It was a career record for the most goals he scored in a game.
His previous career record for total goals scored in a season is 12 after hitting that number in both his first year and second season.
After just one game, he’s already a third of the way to equal his personal best.
“I think that as I get older, I also
got stronger, ”said the University School midfielder / junior striker. “I grew in my ability to attack with the ball and dribble in defense and go to them and score goals.
As the Preppers’ offense erupted early in the second half, the defense held their own and limited Akron North to a single shot on goal the entire game.
Coach Ptacek attributed his team’s strength
Defensive performance at the baseline from Cervino and fellow senior defenders Emmett Meyer, Sam Holthaus and junior Connor Piero.
“It always helps when our center-backs are over six feet tall,” Ptacek said. “Emmett and Sam are both strong and aggressive so that’s good. I would say some of the contributing factors are how we defend ourselves against them. We try to defend ourselves as a unit and that makes their lives easier. “
All four started on the baseline last year, which saw the Preppers go 12-3-3 and advance to their third district title game in the last four. years.
The Preppers’ defense in 2020 was their calling card as they have totaled 13 shutouts this season, tying a school record. Last Friday’s victory marked the ninth consecutive shutout victory dating back to last year.
While it seems like a tough act to follow after last year’s dominating defensive effort, University School has high hopes that it can set a new school record with the most shutouts in a season.
“Last year we had the ball really well,” said second-year midfielder Baeden Piero. “Everyone knows what college football is like. Keep the ball and go forward and I feel like that continues this year as well. We look very good this year.
The Preppers’ playoff march last year ended on a sour note when they were beaten 1-0 by Massillon Jackson in the Northeast District 1 Championship.
It is a loss that still weighs heavily on their minds.
“It was terrible,” Piero said. “Massillon Jackson was a good team. We went out and played slowly and they were a lot bigger and physical, but if we had had a better performance we could have eliminated them. This year we are back.
The varsity school is returning nine of its 11 entries this year and is determined not to fail again.
“It was a huge motivator,” said coach Ptacek. “The boys definitely have that in mind. Although the opponent can always be different I think it really helped motivate this group and I hope we can continue our success and get back to the district final and who knows what will happen.
After a road game against Mentor on August 16, the Preppers will host Kenston on August 21 at noon in Hunting Valley.