CORTLAND - This was an all too familiar position for these two teams.
The Lakeview High School boys soccer team is ranked in the state and undefeated, just as it was last year. Champion comes in with a solid record and reeling from losing to the Bulldogs earlier in the season at the Golden Flashes' home field. Again, exactly like last year.
Champion shocked Lakeview and ended its hopes for perfection in 2011.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Matt Pasternak, left, and Champion’s Seth Flask fight for control Thursday in Cortland. Champion won the game, 2-1, to give Lakeview its first loss of the season.
One year later, nothing changed.
The Golden Flashes stunned Lakeview and became the first team to score twice against the Bulldogs in a 2-1 victory at Don Richards Stadium.
The Bulldogs, who entered 14-0 and ranked No. 6 in the state, allowed a goal in the first minute, and after tying the game at 1 and seemingly dominating the rest of the first half, the Golden Flashes (10-3-3, 7-2-3 All-American Conference, National Division) struck 5 minutes into the second half. Their defense held up the rest of the way, holding off Lakeview and sending the Champion faithful into a frenzy.
"We know how good Lakeview is - they're the No. 1 team in our division - and we respect them a lot," Champion coach Shawnn Wilson said. "But with it being a rival, sometimes anything goes."
The Golden Flashes also entered the contest with a plan for the Bulldogs. Champion wanted to take the ball wide to try and penetrate one of the top defenses in Ohio. Wilson said Lakeview is too quick and talented to score against in the middle of the field, so he wanted to go a different direction.
"Our set play was basically get it wide and play it in," he said. "Their defense is phenomenal, and we don't want to go at them, we just want to take it wide and make something happen off a counter. And that's what we did."
The first opportunity came almost immediately. Eric Karafa tossed the ball in to Christopher Miller after it rolled out of bounds, and Miller quickly sent a pass to Eric Sindledecker, who fired it past Clay Becker for a 1-0 lead. The score went a long way in improving the psyche of the Golden Flashes.
"That was huge," Miller said. "Lakeview's a good team, we knew that coming in, so we knew it was going to be tough. That was just a great confidence booster at the beginning of the game to know that we could do it."
Lakeview (14-1, 11-1) started to show why it's the two-time league champions not long after the score. Even before the Bulldogs tied it at 1 on a goal by Colton Ainsley midway through the first half, it was obvious they had found a rhythm. They continued to pour it on, pelting Champion goalkeeper John Rable with shots from all over the field, but Rable stayed fundamentally sound and thwarted them each time. The senior finished with 17 saves.
"We should have put that game away in the first half," Lakeview coach Nate Mailach said. "We had numerous opportunities, and if you let your rival hang around like that, then you deserve what your fate is."
The Bulldogs' destiny was essentially sealed by Miller.
Champion heaved in a throw-in from near the corner of the field, and Brandon Vystrcil's shot attempt was saved by Becker, but Lakeview failed to clear the ball, and Miller hit a strike that landed inches inside the left post and ricocheted into the net at the 36:07 mark of the second half. The Golden Flashes then began packing defenders back to slow a much-quicker Lakeview team, and while they were a little too conservative for Wilson, Rable and the rest of the defense held off a number of attacks.
"They had shot after shot after shot, but we're a tough team, we don't give up," Rable said.
Both teams end their regular seasons Saturday before starting the Division II tournament next week.