North opened the 2019 season with a 2-0 win over Cleveland Heights back on Aug. 17 and on Saturday the Rangers opened the postseason with another win over the Tigers, but it didn’t come easily.
With the game tied at 1-1 after two overtime periods, the game finally was decided when North keeper Mate Dedic blocked Cleveland Heights’ fifth penalty kick try and Luka Dedic buried his PK into the net for the win.
“We knew it would be tough,” North coach Steve Misick said. “We played them the first game of the year and my assistant coaches and I looked at each other and we said karma is that we’re going to have to play them again and it wasn’t an easy first game. Sure enough, we had to play them again.”
North, the No. 1 seed in the Mentor District, entered the game with 10 wins while the Tigers picked up their third with a 2-0 over South in a sectional semifinal on Wednesday to set up the sectional championship showdown on Saturday.
“I know they don’t post a lot of wins and they don’t score a lot of goals, but they’re consistent and they are in just about every game they play,” Misick said. “We knew it was going to be tough. For us, we haven’t played since Oct. 7 so we had nearly two weeks off and it was our Homecoming dance last night, so we had a lot of distractions.”
The Tigers jumped on the Rangers early with a goal in the sixth minute.
It remained that way for 17 minutes until Kaden Kocin finally tied the game with about 16 minutes left in the first half.
“We’ve had our problems defensively this year and it was more of the same because we haven’t played,” Misick said. “We kind of fell out of that rhythm we were in when we were playing well.”
Both the Rangers and Tigers had opportunities to end the game in regulation.
The intensity picked up in the overtime periods but neither team managed to score the game-winner.
“Their keeper came up big a couple of times as did Mate,” Misick said. “There were chances for both teams. Mate came up with a couple of big saves and they had a couple of big saves.”
North went into the penalty kick shootout as prepared as they could be.
In fact, they worked on shootouts during Friday’s practice.
“At least once a week we practice taking PKs as a group,” Misick said. “The guys you want taking PKs are the guys that feel good with the ball at their feet. I turned to my coaching staff and said, ‘These are the five guys I want to go with and the order I want to go in.’ I asked the kids if they felt comfortable going in that order and everybody was cool with it so we went with it.”
Max Patrick responded to Cleveland Heights’ first PK make with one of his own. Dillon Cendol, Lukas Jakubauskas and Kocin followed suit leaving the score tied 4-4 with one kick per team left.
“Mate came up with a save,” Misick said. “Their kid hit it not near Mate, but nowhere near the post. It was kind of in between where Mate could get a hand on it and Mate blocked it.”
Luka Dedic then toed the line with North’s postseason hopes at stake.
“I felt pretty confident at that point we were going to win,” Misick said. “He put it in the right corner. I was concerned because their keeper was really athletic and we hit five good shots as it turned out. It looked like he was going to get to that one but it got under him.”
North advanced to Wednesday’s district semifinals when they will host the winner of the Shaker Heights-Mayfield game. That game was suspended after double overtime. The Red Raiders and Wildcats will complete their shootout on Monday.