STEUBENVILLE — Big Red’s unbeaten streak in the Together We Care event continues.
Joey Rice recorded a hat trick in the second half leading the Big Red boys soccer team to a 5-0 victory against city-rival Catholic Central in the fourth match of the 11th Annual Together We Care Cancer Soccer Benefit Saturday afternoon on Reno Saccoccia Field inside Harding Stadium.
“We had some chances in the first half, but there was a little bit of pressure on them,” Big Red (9-4-1) head coach Greg Bowers said. “At halftime, we talked to them about keep plugging away, keep things simple and to keep moving. We did that, and we were able to create some wide-open chances and we finished them.”
Rice produced all three of his goals late in the second half to put the game out of reach.
“That happens sometimes when you expend a lot of energy the entire game,” Catholic Central (7-3-4) head coach Steve Kopcha said. “We had a couple of chances, but we could not convert. It got away from us at the end.”
Brady Dinovo and Hayden Hicks also contributed goals for the Red-and-Black, while Matt Loot tallied three assists and Cole Bowers collected one.
The Red-and-Black led 1-0 at halftime as Hicks scored with just 7:56 remaining to be played before the break.
Dinovo opened the scoring in the second half to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, and that was the score with less than 10 minutes to play before Rice netted the final three goals of the match to put things out of reach.
Had the Crusaders converted on one of their chances, the final minutes could have been different.
“That is exactly what I told them,” Kopcha said. “We know we don’t create a lot of chances, but when we do create them, they are quality chances. If we were able to finish, the last 10 minutes of the game might not have happened the way it did. We would have been right there in the game.”
Robbie Lucas made two saves in goal for the victors.
“They had a couple of chances, but we made it tough on them,” Coach Bowers said. “Our guys in the back did a good job of limiting their chances. They had a couple of quality chances. They were dangerous.”
Tom Baillargeon made 11 saves for the Blue-and-Gold.
“Overall, I thought we played a great game,” Kopcha said. “Both teams gave a great effort, there was a desire to win and there was great competition. It was an enjoyable game.”
Big Red delivered a strong outing from start to finish.
“We played a good game,” Coach Bowers said. “We dominated back to front. We had a lot more possession. We were able to finish. It was a great game.”
The Crusaders came into the game banged up, but the visitors still battled hard until the final whistle sounded ending the match.
“They had a couple guys out with injuries,” Coach Bowers said. “They played hard. We told the guys earlier in the week that they can do away with the records. We knew they were going to be good competition for us.”
Benji Rook was named Catholic Central’s Offensive MVP, while Baillargeon was named the Crusaders’ Defensive MVP.
“This is his first year in goal for us,” Kopcha said about his keeper. “He played forward last season. He’s very well seasoned in goal. It is his normal position. He transferred in last year, and we had a goalie last year. He’s a dual threat. He can play on the field and in the goal. He’s done a fantastic job for us.”
Luke Dinovo was named Big Red’s Offensive MVP, while Rice was named the team’s Offensive MVP.
“We have had this for 11 years,” Coach Bowers said about the event. “It is a community effort. I want to thank Gloria Llewellyn and all of her group. I want to thank the past chairs of this event. We have been able to keep it going. It is a great event. The community comes out and supports it. We are glad that it keeps growing.”
With the win, Big Red remained unbeaten in the event.
“I think we are 10-0-1 in it,” Coach Bowers said. “I think we tied one year. We look forward to playing in it. It is good for us to play Catholic Central in this. There was a nice crowd, and they got to see a good game.”
The Crusaders also like taking part in the event.
“We are very proud to be a part of it,” Kopcha said. “I want to thank the community, the businesses and the sponsors. They do a great job every year.”
Big Red is slated to play Brooke at 6 p.m. Monday in an OVAC Third-Fourth Place Match on the road. Big Red will then travel to take on Indian Creek Tuesday as part of a girls and boys doubleheader at Kettlewell Stadium before finishing the regular season Thursday back at Brooke.
Catholic Central is slated to play East Liverpool at 5 p.m. Tuesday at home at the Tony Recinella Soccer Field.
The sectional draw was set for Sunday.