BRUNSWICK — Experience told the Brunswick boys soccer team not to panic Saturday, and confidence put the Blue Devils on top of Wadsworth in a 3-1 Akron Division I final.
The sixth-seeded Grizzlies (8-9) went up early on the third-seeded Blue Devils (11-4-2), yet no one in the blue and white batted an eye.
Brunswick will play at No. 2 Copley (11-5-1) on Wednesday. The Indians beat seventh-seeded Wooster (10-6-1) 4-0.
“In the first half, we were against the wind,” Blue Devils midfielder Justin Hagler said. “Obviously, we knew we could beat them because of our regular-season game (3-0 on Sept. 1). Our main goal was just to defend with the wind and get our opportunities in the second half.”
Scoring began with 17:39 remaining in the first half, when Kai Wagner sent a beautifully struck ball from the corner just past the outstretched arms of Gavyn Ernst.
The lead was short-lived, as Hagler scored 6:09 later.
“That regular-season game showed us we were capable of beating them,” Brunswick midfielder Cole Parete said. “We just have to give heart, and we beat them 3-1 today.”
Having players like Garrett Shay (14 goals, 4 assists, 32 points), Parete (9, 10, 28) and Hagler (8, 10, 26) helps, as Shay assisted Parete for the game-winner with 24:52 remaining and Hagler scored with 3:23 to go.
“It’s not only Hagler and Parete, but Shay as well,” Grizzlies coach John Johnson said. “They’re a three-headed attack with a stout defense. I kind of picture it like defending us at times with David (Chirumbole), (Wagner) and Max (Lenc). They’re hard to defend.
“The pace and the craftiness of Hagler is unbelievable and Parete is what, a sophomore? Holy smokes, we have to put up with this kid for two more years. He’s a stud.”
That’s not lost on Brunswick coach Ben Dotson, either.
After watching 2017 MVP Nick Felician lead his squad to back-to-back Greater Cleveland Conference titles, Dotson retooled his offense and now has multiple targets.
“I’m a very lucky guy, to be honest,” Dotson said. “The last couple years we’ve had a special player that’s carried us through some moments, and now I’ve got three guys that I don’t know if there’s a lot of players that are better in the area. They’re fantastic.”
Brunswick will face a Copley squad that needs no introduction, as the Indians needed a penalty kick on Sept. 22 to beat the Blue Devils 1-0.
“We need a lot of heart from all of us,” Parete said. “Everyone has to give it their all that game. Copley plays amazing soccer. They’re passing is wonderful. We just have to be physical and play with passion.”
The good news for Wadsworth, which played a season filled with injuries, is that they only lose five seniors. The bad news is Wagner (15 goals, 7 assists, 37 points), Lenc (9, 3, 21) and fellow starter Owen Porpora are three of them.
“They need to keep pushing,” Wagner said. “You don’t ever know when it’s going to end. They need to work their hardest. It’s a good brotherhood to be a part of. I just hope they don’t forget that.”
Brunswick 3, Wadsworth 1
Akron Division I Sectional Final
WADSWORTH 1 0 — 1
BRUNSWICK 1 2 — 3
W — Kai Wagner, 17:39.
B — Justin Hagler, 11:30.
B — Cole Parete (Garrett Shay), 24:52.
B — Hagler, 3:23.
Shots on goal — Wadsworth 3, Brunswick 12. Corner kicks — Wadsworth 3, Brunswick 8. Saves — Connor Margo (W) 9, Gavyn Ernst (B) 3. Records — Wadsworth (8-9), Brunswick (11-4-2).