Local prep soccer fans have a tough call to make tonight.
Do they want to watch the boys of Todd Morris-coached Marietta High host Andrew Johnson-led Warren in a non-conference match at 7 p.m. at the Devola Soccer Complex, or do they want to see the Ekrem Eksi-coached Lady Warriors entertain the Jeff Price-led Lady Tigers at 6 p.m. in Vincent?
Flip a coin.
Either decision will be the right one, and fans won't have to worry about getting a red or yellow card. All they'll need is a game ticket.
Starting with the boys, Marietta (9-1-2 overall, 5-0-1 East Central Ohio League) and Warren (8-1-2, 5-0 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League) have some unfinished business to take care of. When the Tigers and Warriors last squared off on the pitch in Vincent on Sept. 15, they tied 2-2.
"I thought the 2-2 tie in Warren was a fair result," Morris said Morris, whose Tigers earned at least a share of the ECOL championship with a 4-1 come-from-behind win over visiting Zanesville Tuesday night. "Both teams had to battle the wet field conditions and both teams played hard."
Again, two evenly-matched teams will be going at it again.
MHS, which leads the all-time series 44-8-5 and is 16-2-1 at Devola, had to stage a late rally, to earn the September draw. In fact, there was plenty of action during the final 10 minutes of play as both schools put a ball into the back of the net.
With the score knotted at 1-1, Warren took its first lead of the contest on non-starter Drew Arnold's goal in the 70th minute. Alex Miller got the assist.
But with the clock winding down, Marietta's Tim Grosel came to the rescue when he headed home Cole Hamilton's pass for the equalizer in the 76th minute of competition.
Earlier, in the first half, Brent Huck staked the Tigers to a 1-0 advantage with Hamilton getting the assist. Just before the break, though, the Warriors' tied it on reserve Seth Johnson's unassisted score.
Along with Huck and co-captains' Grosel and Hamilton, Marietta's other probable starters will be Brennan Uhrig, Ethan Bloomingdale, Colin Jordan, Daniel Haught, Steven Stollar, Skylar Miracle, Matt Roberts, Andrew Roberts and keeper Jacob Hupp.
Look for Skylar Miracle, Jacob Holdren, and Tanner Rake to be the first people off the pine.
Uhrig and Grosel each has nine goals on the season to lead Marietta in that offensive category.
Hamilton has a team-leading seven assists to go along with six goals.
Huck, who also kicks for the Marietta Tigers football team, has six goals and two assists.
Between the pipes, Hupp has been credited with 96 saves and six clean sheets.
Warren is expected to counter with keeper Ben Hopkins, Ty Kroner, Nick Koch, Sam Arnold, Daniel Rohr, Wyatt Lynch, Ethan Ida, Derek Schwendeman, Aaron Mazurkiewicz, Nick Robinson, and Miller.
Look for Seth Johnson and Arnold to come off the bench.
"Our bench players really stepped up," Andrew Johnson said after the 2-2 tie on Sept. 15. "We pretty much call them super subs. They coaame in when we needed them and produced.
Dating back to last season, the Marietta boys have won 16 straight matches at the Devola Soccer Complex.
"Warren has had a great season and is on the verge of winning their first ever SEOAL soccer title, so they have been very successful this season," Morris said.
"Warren/Marietta games are always a great emotional hard fought battle, and I expect the same to be true when we host them Thursday night. The key for us will be to control the midfield, limit the number of mental mistakes we make and continue to play with energy and purpose."
The girls of Warren and Marietta were also involved in a close game in the first meeting with the Lady Warriors rallying to win 3-1.
MHS got on the board first when Shelby Miracle put the finishing touch on Paige Grosel's corner kick. The lead was brief, though, as Warren's Erin Phillips got the equalizer about a minute later.
The Lady Warriors then took their first lead on Mackenzie Ullman's goal in the ninth minute of play.
After the intermission, Warren's Breanna Duff got the all-important insurance goal with Melissa Dickerson getting credited with an assist.
Warren, 6-6 overall and 2-3 in the SEOAL (as of Sept. 29) is expected to start Raelyn Gardner, Nattalie O'Dell, Addie Barnes, Jordanna Rauch, Lauren Mazurkiewicz, Arienne Miller, Dickerson, Phillips, Ullman, Duff and keeper Janelle Barth.
Marietta will probably counter with keeper Bree Seevers, Alex Depue, Sofia Danford, Amelia Gulick, Alyssa Hill, Ashley Stresky, Anna Carpenter, Katie Miller, Rebekah Haught, Grosel and Miracle.
The MHS girls are coming off a 4-0 setback at Zanesville on Tuesday night. Going into the match, the Lady Tigers own a 4-6-1 record.