By Bobby Narang
ADDISON – Oak Park and River Forest senior midfielder Charlie Maguire had the biggest honor early Saturday afternoon.
Maguire accepted the tourney championship plaque and walked over to his teammates near the 50-yard line. The team acknowledged the achievement but didn’t seem in a celebratory mood. Or maybe they had bigger goals in mind.
The Huskies rode a strong defensive effort and made goals in the last 18 minutes stand up for a 2-0 victory over Geneva in the 12th-annual Joe Novy Classic championship game. Unlike last season, when Glenbard North downed Geneva in the title game and immediately went into an epic postgame celebration, the Huskies took a subdued approach.
“This is only the first of many (titles),” Maguire said, smiling. “We’re building every game. We’re working every day, and there’s going to be many more. We’re working hard. This is a good start, definitely a building block. I think we can definitely get better, especially in possession and finishing.
“We’re really tight this year and have a good connection, which will help us win more games.”
Oak Park and River Forest senior defender Ben Naber said the Huskies are laser-focused on the ultimate prize this season.
“It was a good game and a good start to the season,” Naber said. “It was a good way to build our confidence, but there’s a lot more to come. We can go very far as a team. Our goal is to win state. We’re working toward it every day. I was more possession based, but I feel like my distribution was good.”
Oak Park and River Forest coach Jason Fried was also taken aback by his team’s laissez faire approach, It prompted him to tell his team to enjoy their accomplishment.
“I don’t know why they aren’t really celebrating, that’s what I was thinking,” Fried said. “A long week and a lot of games maybe. Or it’s Saturday at noon, and they are exhausted. No, we’re happy. They actually put together a really good game and fought really hard and stuck to our game plan and created a lot of chances.”
The Huskies (5-0-0), who are ranked fifth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, made a big impression in their first appearance in the Addison Trail-hosted tournament. They recorded their third shutout of the season, and have outscored the opposition 16-2 in the first two weeks of the season.
“We’re not looking too far ahead, and looking at the next practice and the next game,” Fried said. “We have to work smart, and they’ve come up with their own values this year and are sticking to them.
“It’s a long season, so we will see. Usually this last weekend in August, we would go down to the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis, but we wanted to try something new this year. We were fortunate there was an opening. It was a great tournament, a great start. We got to play some really good teams.
“Also to play for something at the beginning of the year allowed us to feel the pressure a bit and show who we are. There were a lot of great things. We have to keep getting better and don’t want to peak.
“I thought for the first 40 minutes we played great. (Geneva) didn’t have the ball much or too many chances on us. They had one really good long ball in out of a free kick that was dangerous. I thought we didn’t pull away.
“We had our chances. We have to work on some things. The thing to learn is we have to put games away early if we can. We didn’t panic today and just kept with it. We were in the box constantly in the second half.”
The Vikings (3-2-1) failed to score a goal for the second time in their last three games after their scoreless draw against Hersey on Aug. 29. Geneva enjoyed a stellar outing from junior goalie Tommy Rowoldt, who finished with six saves in the defeat. He was all over the box, leaping to his right and left against Oak Park and River Forest’s highly aggressive attack. Rowoldt even recorded a save on a penalty kick attempt by Easton Bogard.
“We were in the game and had moments,” Geneva coach Jason Bhatta said. “I thought we contained a very quality team and minimized their chances. It’s hard to win when we give up penalties and don’t take chances when we get them. We can learn from this and take it into conference.
“Our goalie played well and made some good saves. We just have to be better in moments of games that decide games. Overall, the tournament was good. We got some experience out of it and can take that into the rest of the season. I’m happy where we are at.”
Oak Park and River Forest scored both of its goals via penalty kicks, well technically only one of their goals. After a late morning start that stretched into the early afternoon match in a match played in hot and muggy conditions, the Huskies had a goal waved off in the 10th minute. That led to an extended scoreless period.
Rowoldt made three saves in the scoreless first half.
Bogard was all set to break the tie on his penalty kick attempt in the 62nd minute. Rowoldt stopped the senior’s shot with a hard dive to his left, but the ball rebounded right back to the shooter, who showed off quick reactionary skills by immediately soft touching the ball into the back of the net.
“I chose my spot and didn’t hit it as good as I wanted to, but I got fortunate when it bounced back,” Bogard said of his goal. “It just all happened in the moment.”
Bogard tried to score via a bicycle kick in the 26th minute but missed the flying ball and landed hard on his back.
“I was watching Indiana soccer play last night, and I saw one of their players go for acrobatic attempts, so I’m like ‘This is my chance.’ The ball was a little bit far behind me, so I couldn’t get a header,” said the Hoosiers recruit. “I had to go for a highlight reel (play), but it didn’t work out. I have scored once that way, but that was maybe when I was 12.”
Bogard, who has six goals on the season, said it was a quality win over the Vikings.
“Playing a team like Geneva is very good for us, because they are very familiar to teams we will play later,” he said. “Winning this is great, but that’s not the end goal.”
Oak Park and River Forest forward Bryce Richards, who has three goals this season, provided an insurance goal via a penalty kick in the 71st minute. Five minutes later, Richards had a long shot that grazed off the crossbar.
“We had to grind for it,” Richards said. “They played well, and we had to stay patient and wait for our chances. I wasn’t even thinking nothing on my (PK). I just took a deep breath and shot it.”
Oak Park and River Forest senior defender Diego Zarate, who is another three-goal scorer for the Huskies, credited his team for playing the full 80 minutes.
“It was a good game, the result we wanted but probably not the way we wanted,” he said. “It worked out. We would’ve like to score more, but it worked out in the end. We have a lot of games to play.”
Geneva junior forward Reece Leonard had one of the few shots on goal for his team, but the mid-range try was easily saved in the opening minutes of the second half.
“We put a lot of effort in, but the ball and some of our passes weren’t going our way,” Leonard said. “It was a battle of who wanted it more at the end, and they did.”
Geneva senior midfielder and captain Liam O’Donoghue had the first real shot attempt of the game in the seventh minute, but overall the Oak Park and River Forest backline did a great job communicating and staying organized to limit the Vikings’ threats.
“We were just too frantic and couldn’t complete our passes that we’ve been working hard on,” O’Donoghue said. “The second half we kept a good shape and had a good game plan and had that chance on the counter but were just unlucky in the end.
“This is a good quality tournament, but we wanted to come out on top and get ready for our conference. (Oak Park and River Forest) was doing the simple things right and were playing good on the ground. We stuck with them and were good in the air, but they just won 50/50s more than us.”
GK: Tommy Rowoldt
D: Ben Schuemer
D: Michael Renda
D: Carter Konkey
D: Kieran Kelly
MF: Alexis Ramirez
MF: Liam O’Donoghue
MF: Reece Leonard
MF: Peyton Friedman
F: Nick Plata
F: Trent Giansanti
Oak Park and River Forest
GK: Cameron Smith
D: Isaac Felder
D: Cole Shepherd
D: Izzy Erwin
D: Ben Naber
MF: Nate Day
MF: Charlie Maguire
MF: Diego Zarate
MF: Josh Kitterman
F: Easton Bogard
F: Bryce Richards
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Easton Bogard, sr., F, Oak Park and River Forest