HUDSON—Independence’s perfect season came to an abrupt end with a 4-3 loss to Rootstown in a Division III, Region 9 semifinal at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.
The Rovers scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals in the final seven minutes, 47 seconds of the game.
“It was a tale of two halves and we did not come out and perform in the second half well enough and they pressured and worked harder than we did,” said Independence coach Ryan MacRaild. “When you work hard you win. Hard work beats talent.”
Independence closed out the year with a 19-1 record. The 19 wins are the most in school history.
Teddy Durbak gave the Rovers an early 1-0 lead when he was in the right place at the right time to finish off a shot from Ivan Martinez just seven minutes into the game.
The Blue Devils responded eight minutes later when Adam Leibel headed in a Sam Belitz free kick but Rootstown wasted no time regaining the lead.
Cory Banks punched one in a minute later to put the Rovers back on top, 2-1.
Independence had a quick opportunity to tie the score but Rootstown keeper Dino Sorboro denied Belitz on a penalty kick try to preserve the lead until Leibel scored his second goal of the contest, this one off a deflection on a corner kick, with 17:57 left in the half.
A red card left the Rovers shorthanded and Independence took advantage when Wyatt Kunevicius scored with 1:17 remaining to give the Blue Devils the lead at the break.
“A lot of character,” MacRaild said when asked about his team battling back from the early deficits. “We went down a few times in this run and we figured it might happen again. We had to keep plugging away and we did.”
Rootstown played the entire first half with just 10 players on the field but managed to keep the Blue Devils from increasing their lead.
Soroboro’s second PK save of the game gave the Rovers some much-needed momentum with just over eight minutes remaining in the match.
A minute later, Independence was called for tackling a Rootstown player in the box and Banks converted the PK try to tie it with 7:47 left in regulation.
Five minutes later, Banks scored the game-winner on a free kick with 2:08 on the clock.
“That was all the momentum shift they needed,” MacRaild said of the back-to-back penalty kicks. “It’s kind of weird playing 10v11. You can make adjustments and try and stay with guys and cover as much as you can but unless you’re making plays and moving the ball the way you’re supposed to, it doesn’t matter. Tonight it didn’t matter. We just got outworked and that’s the result.”