Both the Bradley Central and Cleveland soccer coaches knew that their rivalry game tonight was ‘game of the week’ worthy the moment they put out their schedules.
“You can always look at the schedule, circle the game against Cleveland and know that it will be a battle,” Bradley coach Tucker Blackmon proclaimed.
What the coaches didn’t know until two weeks ago was that both the NFHS network, which “CHS Live” broadcasts on, and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America also felt it was big enough to be billed as the ‘Game of the Week,’ but on a national level.
“We're excited about the opportunity to be the NSCAA and NFHS Game of the Week. It's certainly good exposure for our soccer program and a great opportunity to show people what our Cleveland High School soccer program is all about,” Cleveland coach John Brose stated. “We've got such a great group of kids and our parents work so hard to make the program what it is, and I'm just glad that they'll get some recognition for that.”
For CHS broadcasting instructor Jon Souders, who oversees the production of CHS Live, the selection is a testament to the broadcasting students and student athletes.
“All the pieces came together and it’s a big testament as to what our student body can do,” Souders proclaimed. “It shows the quality that our students are able to produce on a video production level as well as the quality of our athletes.”
The Bears make the quick trip to the north end of the city tonight to take on the Raiders at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.
“It’s an honor (to be selected), but honestly I’m just focused on the game,” Blackmon commented. “Every time we play Cleveland it’s always an important game. In the ’90s, Bradley beat up on Cleveland and Lord knows that Cleveland returned the favor for the next 12 years. We beat them a couple years ago and then they killed us last year.”
Last year Cleveland handed Bradley a 6-1 defeat at home.
Currently, the Raiders have a record of 7-3-2 and are 2-1 in District 5-AAA play, while the Bears are 7-0-1 and 2-0 in the district.
The history and traditions of the crosstown rivalry, and the emotion it can elicit from all those involved is one of the aspects Coach Brose feels makes the game stand out.
“I think they selected the Cleveland/Bradley game because not only are they looking for quality play on the field, they're looking for games that will have a great atmosphere and a lot of emotion,” Brose explained. “I think this game ... will provide both of those things and I'm looking forward to it. These are the type of games that you really look forward to as a player and coach. Both teams will be ready to play and I think we'll have a great crowd on hand to watch. It should be a fun evening.”
The Raiders enter into this rivalry match with an overall solid team, which could be poised to do big things this season.
Despite their high-scoring offense, Cleveland dropped a tough 4-1 game to District 5-AAA opponent East Hamilton on Tuesday.
“After playing some really good soccer over the past couple of weeks we definitely played our worst match of the season against East Hamilton (Tuesday) night. We just didn't do the little things right that we needed to do to beat a good team like East Hamilton,” Brose stated. “I think our guys learned a valuable lesson from it, however, and I think we're ready to get back on track against Bradley. We had a very good focused practice, and we know what we need to do to be successful.”
Bradley, on the other hand, enters tonight’s game coming off of a 2-1 overtime win against district opponent Soddy-Daisy, following other good results so far this season.
“We’re older now, mostly juniors and seniors. Physically we are stronger and I think skill-wise we’ve improved in playing our system — we do a better job of executing all around. Last year we gave up tons of goals, this year we’re giving up zero, one or two,” Blackmon said.
The Bears, who are currently undefeated, have not gone unnoticed by their rival’s coach.
“Bradley is a much-improved team this year and they are very physical and very athletic and sometimes we struggle with teams like that. They also have some skillful players up top that can score goals. They work hard and will certainly be ready to play,” Brose commented.
Despite the teams’ successful improvements, Coach Blackmon knows Cleveland poses a threat in an area the Bears still struggle in.
“From what I’ve heard, Cleveland attacks from the wings very well. Every regular goal we’ve given up is a backside goal from a cross. Apparently that’s what they do well, so it’s kind of scary knowing that while we haven’t given up many goals all year, the goals that we do give up are Cleveland’s specialties,” Blackmon explained.
While there have been a couple of bumps in the road for the Raiders, Coach Brose feels his team is still on track.
“So far we've been having a good season that could turn into a great season if we continue to work hard and improve every day,” Brose declared. “We've got some really skillful attacking players and our defense has been progressing and getting better as a unit throughout the season. We've also gotten some really good play from Zach Martin in the goal.”
Besides knowing that there will be a definite battle on the field tonight, how the full 80 minutes pans out is still an unknown variable.
“We’ve not been shut out yet and are scoring better. Both our defense and offense are stronger. I feel that we’re a better team overall and should be able to hang with Cleveland,” Blackmon stated. “I’m hoping that this is a low-scoring game, but it could go either way. I want a knockdown, drag-out battle.”
For those unable to attend tonight’s game, live broadcasts will be streaming at chslive.com and also at nscaatv.com.