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THE BATTLE FOR OHIO

The Battle for Ohio is usually reserved for the Indians and the Reds or the Browns and the Bengals. But this weekend the Battle for Ohio was all about the NPSL as AFC Cleveland hit the road to face newcomer Zanesville Athletic FC in a weekend of firsts.

It was the first home match for ZAFC, the first meeting between Zanesville and Cleveland, and the first-ever Presidential Cup match.

What's the Presidential Cup? The teams' faithful are excited about this new rivalry series that pits the two Ohio clubs against each other in what looks to be a great derby for years to come.

Cleveland got an early lead in the cup competition, defeating ZAFC 3-2 on Sunday.

“The boys finished well,” AFC Cleveland head coach Andy Hoggarth stated. “We took our goals well. It was a good win and we are happy with it.”

Both Cleveland and Zanesville started their attacks early, trading chances in the first moments of the match. Cleveland striker Tom Beck was the first to go on the board, scoring a goal in the 5th minute on a breakaway run.

The Royals would add to that lead in the 31st as Vinny Bell turned an Andre Learned cross into a goal. Zanesville was awarded a dangerous free kick just outside the box minutes before halftime, but the home side was unable to convert the chance.

The 2-0 lead by Cleveland didn’t last long as Cedric Bruce-Kotey and Smart Osadolor teamed up for a goal in the 49th minute, cutting the visitors’ lead in half. ZAFC continued to make attempts at the Cleveland goal, including a quick sequence where the ball bounced off multiple players before keeper Ben Yabrow was able to fall on it.

But everything changed in the 68th minute as Osadolor was handed a red card for an aggressive tackle on Cleveland’s David Murrow. A man down, Zanesville surrendered a third goal 10 minutes later as Bell scored his second of the night and third of the weekend.

Both sides continued to trade chances, but it was the home team that struck in stoppage time as Zanesville’s Tim Findall collected a cross from Ryan McClay to end things at 3-2.

The physicality of the match was never in question. “It was a tough game,” ZAFC midfielder Michael McLaughlin stated. “It was a tough loss. I think the team has done well and will do well in the future.”

The result gives AFC Cleveland their first win of the season, while Zanesville remains winless despite two strong showings.

Photo Credit: Pam Moody/ISNSoccer.com