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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Tallmadge -- If Aug. 23 is any indication, the Tallmadge boys soccer team may have a lot of promise this fall.
The host Blue Devils earned a convincing 4-0 victory over Ravenna in their season debut at Thomas Rossiaky Stadium. Tallmadge, thanks to its precise, short passes and ability to win 50-50 balls, controlled possession much of the way and had a 3-0 lead at halftime.
There were a few things that could use some fine-tuning. All in all, though, it was a very impressive start for the Blue Devils.
"We didn't play our best, but we still dominated the game," Tallmadge head coach Mina Shahata said. "We just have to limit our mental mistakes. It was a great night, though."
A little more than 11 minutes into the game, the Blue Devils got on the scoreboard. Junior attacker Nathan Blaser got the ball on the left side of the field.
He crossed the ball to teammate Jerry Walsh in the middle of the Ravens' penalty box.
Although the ball was a bit behind Walsh, the junior defender made the adjustment and was able to poke it past Ravenna senior goalkeeper Brady Starkey.
A little more than 13 minutes later, Tallmadge made it 2-0 when sophomore attacker Nick Hussing broke free from the left side and beat Starkey one on one with a high-arching shot into the upper part of the net. Senior midfielder Evan Makuch was credited with the assist.
Hussing wasn't done.
Late in the half, Hussing blasted a shot from the left side that went off Starkey's hands. Teammate Justin Betts, a sophomore midfielder, got to the loose ball and finished to make it 3-0 with 4:16 left.
The Hussing-Betts combination struck again late in the game.
This time, sophomore midfielder Betts fed the ball to Hussing, who was able to beat Starkey to the loose ball outside of the penalty box. Just as Starkey got near him, Hussing slid the ball past Starkey for the final goal of the game with 6:06 left.
"Nicky has the biggest heart," Shahata said.
Starkey finished with seven saves. The Blue Devils had a 14-7 advantage in shots on goal. The Ravens (1-1) had a 5-1 edge on corner kicks.
Tallmadge goalkeepers Tommy Kilway, a senior, and Sam Weyandt, a sophomore, combined to make five saves.
Since Shahata became the Blue Devils head coach in 2014, he has stressed a family atmosphere. It's early, but this family seems to be in perfect harmony.
"These guys love each other," Shahata said. "I put our kids in positions based on friendships. I'm very proud of them. If they continue to lean on each other and love each other, the sky is the limit."
Tallmadge was scheduled to visit Norton Aug. 27. Results were not available at press time.
The Blue Devils are set to entertain Field Aug. 30 and Canton McKinley Sept. 3. Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.