By Matt Le Cren
For the Bugle 

First battle for 'Downers Cup' ends in a tie


Last updated 10/9/2019 at 3:56pm

Soccer players from Downers Grove North and Downers Grove South have never lacked for motivation when playing against each other.

Now they have even more to get excited about.

The crosstown rivalry got an added boost this season with the introduction of the Downers Cup, a traveling trophy which will be given to the winner each year.

“We’ve talked about it for a couple years and (assistant) coach (Nate) Terry is the one who found it and picked it up for us,” Downers Grove South coach Jon Stapleton said. “We didn’t have time to work all the kinks.”

One of those kinks was what to do in case of a tie. The procedure going forward will have the team that holds the trophy retain possession in the event of a tie.

But the first meeting between the Trojans and Mustangs ended in an exciting yet inconclusive 3-3 tie on October 3 at Downers South. Since neither team had “won” the trophy, it will not be awarded until next year.

“We’re going to throw it in a close and we won’t see it until next year,” Stapleton said. “It won’t be on display or anything. We’ll bring it over to North and give it a shot next year.”

Even so, both teams posed for pictures with the trophy and their fans after the Mustangs (5-7-1) rallied from a 3-0 halftime deficit on the strength of goals from Blazo Jovicevic, Josh Venouziou and Kyle Fenner.

Fenner tied the game with 4:55 remaining when he headed in a long throw-in from Ethan Kelly to cap an unlikely comeback.

“We went in the locker room (at halftime) and everyone was like, ‘Keep your heads up,’” Fenner said. “We got the first (goal), got the second and the third one we’ve been dangerous on throw-ins all year, me and Ethan

“Everyone was like, ‘Get a head on one.’”

The rally allowed the Mustangs to extend their unbeaten streak to four games. After a 2-7 start, South won three straight games before tying North, so Fenner and his teammates were on a high after the match.

“It feels good,” Fenner said. “Everyone is excited.

“It feels like a win right now. No one is down from this game.”

The Trojans (6-6-2) weren’t feeling quite as good after letting a commanding lead slip away.

“That was probably the best first half we’ve played this season and probably one of the worst second halves we’ve played,” Downers North junior Sam Bull said. “We’ve been caught in that situation before and we’ve been on the good side of that before. It’s just really frustrating to be on that bad side.”

The Trojans scored in the first minute on 35-yard rocket by Trygve Hansen that went in off the inside of the right post. It was the seventh goal of the season for Hansen, who like Fenner is a junior midfielder who wears No. 16.

“The ball just bounced to me and I saw the goalie was off his line, so I just shot it where he wasn’t,” Hansen said. “I really like shooting from distance.”

Downers North coach Mike Schmitt encourages Hansen to do so.

“You couldn’t ask for a better start,” Schmitt said. “He got the ball and we were all yelling at him to shoot.

“He took it and from our angle it looked like it was veering pretty far wide but it was a perfectly-placed shot, right into the top corner. It was a fantastic way to start, especially in an atmosphere at a game like this.”

Bull increased the lead to 2-0 when he bent in a corner kick at the 26:14 mark of the first half. The Trojans made it 3-0 at the 14:01 mark when Jose Perez booted home a cross from Hansen.

Few people anticipated South making a comeback at that point, but the Mustangs never lost confidence.

“Some people might have (doubted us) but in the locker room we were just telling each other keep our heads up, we got this, we can do this, nothing is impossible,” Venouziou said. “We can win or tie this game and that’s what happened.”

While Hansen would have preferred a victory, he said the Trojans can learn some lessons from the result.

“We had a really good first half and we had a really good buildup,” Hansen said. “We’ve just to got to keep our composure in the second half. (If we had) we would have won the game.”

Not to mention the new trophy.

“It’s already such an energetic game on its own and we wanted to add something to it,” Schmitt said of the new tradition. “It’s something tangible that you can hold onto and have for a year.

“This was a fantastic game on both sides. We had a really good half, dominated the play and had a lot of opportunities. They came out and really took over the second half.”

Players, especially those who will be back next year, said the new trophy enhances the rivalry.

“I think it definitely does,” Bull said. “Obviously, it’s the first year of doing it and everybody is motivated to grab that trophy and keep it for the whole year.”


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