Last November, Brock Pickett heard the magic words from his parents.
After years spent living in different locations in the Midwest, from Cincinnati to Michigan to Illinois to West Virginia, the family was moving back to his native Northeast Ohio in May, following his father’s career path. The junior would return to Bay and attend Bay High School this fall.
Pickett’s right-footed shot through traffic and into the back-left corner of the net gave the Rockets boys soccer team the final 3-2 lead in the 63rd minute of play against rival Westlake.
The Rockets (1-0) claimed the Dover Cup in the process. The Demons (0-1) had held the trophy for the two previous meetings.
“It’s crazy,” Pickett said. “These guys, it’s just a family. And to score when it’s tied 2-2 in the last 20 minutes means everything.”
The sturdy midfielder, who played for University High School in Morgantown, West Virginia, last season, brings with him a soccer resume that stands out even amongst a team like Bay’s, which has advanced to the State playoffs in Division II for two consecutive years. As a sophomore in 2018, Pickett was a West Virginia High School Soccer Coaches Association AAA All-Region I first-teamer. His team was undefeated before losing its state championship game, 2-1. During the summer, his Western Pennsylvania-based Beadling Club Soccer team won numerous accolades, including reaching the final of the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championship.
Adding a player with that kind of experience to a roster that went 18-2-2 a year ago and graduated just four of its members could help give the Rockets one of the best midfield groups in Division II, something that has coach Bobby Dougherty excited.
“Late in (Pickett’s) sophomore year, I get a call that he’s moving back, and I go ‘that’s awesome,’” Dougherty said. “And he’s been a rock star. He can play up top for us. He can play center midfield. He can play in the center back, which allows us to really dominate in the midfield. We have Ashton (Price) taking everything out of the air, and Brock is great in the air, too, and so is Kyle (Cusimano). So we’ve got a nasty three-headed monster when they’re all out on the field.”
With the Demons hanging tough in front of senior goalie Levi Swisher (nine saves) in the second half, Cusimano got the ball just in front of their box and struggled to find an opening to shoot with 17 minutes left and defenders crowding around him. He sent a pass to his right over to Pickett, who scored the decisive goal before those same defenders could surround him.
After watching the ball roll into the net, it was time to release the energy that came with scoring his first goal of the season on his new team.
“I was thinking, just get to my boys and celebrate,” Pickett said. “Get to my boys and get back. We’ve got to finish 15 more minutes and get a win, and that’s it.”
As for the chance to join the Bay boys program after years of being away, Pickett was all smiles Friday.
“I was ecstatic (to find out we were coming back to Bay Village),” he said. “The first thought in my mind when my parents told me we were moving to Bay was, ‘I’m going to get a state championship. I’m going to a great group of guys, a family, and we’re going to win.’”
The Rockets managed 12 shots on goal to the Demons’ seven, and received a pair of first half goals from sophomore Connor Bozak (5th minute) and Cusimano (10th). Down 2-0 on their home field at Lee Burneson Middle School, the youthful Demons were able to tighten up their defense and rallied to tie it on goals scored by senior captain Matt Toner (25th) and junior Sam Falcone (34th).
“I knew we were going to have some growing pains. We’re so young,” Westlake coach Mike Besu said. “And (Bay’s) a good team. They’re a (former) State runner-up; they’ve got three or four great players. But I’m proud of my kids. After going down 2-0 they came back and were resilient and played their butts off. The second half was an even game that could’ve gone either way.”
Bay senior keeper Tony Vangelos finished with five saves, including a crucial catch of a Basheer Alramahi shot in the game’s final minute that threatened to tie the score.
Although both teams played an uneven game that at times reflected how early in the season it is, both found positives to build on.
“We’re thrilled that that’s our starting point,” Dougherty said. “And to fight through where we get up by two, give up two and then get the game-winner was good to see.”
Bay will play host to Ontario tonight at 7 p.m. in another non-league matchup, then will open Great Lakes Conference play at home Saturday against Valley Forge at 7 p.m. Westlake dives head first into Southwestern Conference play this week, when North Olmsted visits tonight at 7 p.m. before traveling to Olmsted Falls on Saturday for a 7 p.m. start.
For questions about this story, call 440-871-5797.