HUBBARD - Since rejoining Division II in 2011, the Canfield boys soccer program has played second-fiddle to Lakeview, having lost to them the past two seasons in the district semifinal round.
Thus, when the two teams met on Saturday at Hubbard Memorial Stadium for the Division II district crown, the Cardinals had a bit of a chip on their shoulders, wanting to show they can beat the perennial heavyweights like Cardinal Mooney and Lakeview. They showed they belong, defeating the two-time defending district champions, 2-0, and avenging the past two seasons' losses.
"We've always been right there," Canfield coach Phil Simone said. "Mooney has won so many times and Lakeview has won two times in a row, so to be able to knock off one of the big guys puts us right there with them."
The Cardinals (11-5-3) kept the Bulldogs (15-2-2) on their heels from pretty much start to finish, using physical play to get Lakeview out of its own style and its speed to try and stretch the defense out.
Lakeview coach Nate Mailach praised the Cardinals for taking the Bulldogs out of their rhythm.
"We knew how there are," Mailach said. "We knew we have to get the ball off our feet quick or else we're going to get wiped out because they play hard. Their speed tonight was too much for us."
Tribune Chronicle / Nick Mays
Canfield’s Christian Hume, left, Matt Pasternak of Lakeview, right, battle for the ball during thier game Saturday night in Hubbard.
While Canfield controlled the tempo of the match, it took the Cardinals until the 74th minute before they managed to cash out on their gameplan.
Christian Hume had the ball on the right wing and centered to Jona Ghossain, who made a late run in the box. After a scramble in front of the Lakeview net, the senior co-captain blasted a shot that deflected off a Lakeview player and rolled across the goal line.
It was a play in which everything finally came together for the Cardinals, and two minutes later, Canfield sealed its win when the Bulldogs pushed everybody forward to try and find an equalizer. Ghossain led the charge on the counterattack from the left wing, picking out Brett Lewis at the far post for a tap-in goal.
"It takes a lot of patience and being in the right spot at the right time," Ghossain said of his goal. "(Hume) had the patience and I was just in the right spot. At the moment, I was just trying to hit it and see if it would go in, and it deflected off someone and rolled in. So, it worked out."
The loss ended Lakeview's streak of two-consecutive district titles, but Mailach said the Bulldogs put worth the effort and it still takes something special for a lot of these players to participate in three finals three years in a row.
"People like Evan Olbrych and Matt Pasternak have been through three of these games, and they've played every minute of these three games," Mailach said. "I feel bad for Evan and Austin (Olbrych) and Colton (Ainsley) and those guys (seniors), but they played their hearts out. We just got beat by a better team tonight."
As for the Cardinals, Ghossain struggled to find the words to describe his joy after the match. For him and his teammates, it's been a long time coming.
"It's so overwhelming," Ghossain said. "We played against such great teams in our conference, and to be able to be No. 1 (in the district tournament) now is just unbelievable because we worked so hard all year just for this moment."