Lordstown boys fall in title game

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Rootstown goalkeeper Dino Sorboro steals the ball as Garrett Behner of Lordstown attempts a header while the Rovers’ Isaiah Schweizer and the Red Devils’ Michon Peterson fight for position in Division III district tournament action at Girard’s Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

GIRARD — The higher you get the harder it is to lose. Those were the words Lordstown boys soccer coach Tim Malone gave to his team after the Red Devils had their hearts broken in a 2-1 loss to Rootstown in the Division III boys soccer district championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a heartbreaker,” Malone said. “It’s difficult. Those guys played their hearts out. No team, I guarantee, is playing nine guys for 80 minutes without them coming out. Rootstown is a great team. You can’t take anything away from them. They came back and did what they did.”

The Red Devils (16-2-1) gave away a 1-0 lead in surrendering two goals late in the second half.

“At the beginning of the season, our aspirations were to win the NAC,” Malone said. “I never had expectations of us being 16-2-1 right now. We overachieved. We had a late start, players joined late. We only had seven players at practice all week until yesterday because of injuries.

“The kids just played their hearts out. I can’t take anything away from the grit they played with. It wasn’t their hearts that gave out, it was the legs. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Dominic D’Amico of Lordstown outruns Nathan Murdock of Rootstown to the ball in Division III district tournament action on Saturday afternoon.

Rootstown will make its second trip to the regional. Its previous trip cam in 2009.

“We’ve had better teams, but none of them work as hard as this one,” Rootstown coach Charlie Voth said. “It’s a good group of young men. They’re a tight group.”

Lordstown simply ran out of gas midway through the second half and the Rovers made the Red Devils pay.

“What happened in the second half is we not only broke down physically, but mentally, as well,” Malone said. “We didn’t play our game and they took advantage. We thought when we held them scoreless in the first half and we ended up with the wind advantage, we could take advantage. Unfortunately, we didn’t execute the game plan. They did a great job countering us.

“There are two or three different ways we can attack,” Voth said. “These kids have been playing together since they were little kids. We just put them in situations, put the meat out there, and they go after it. They aren’t going to panic. They believe in themselves.”

Chris Eakins gave Lordstown a 1-0 lead off an assist from Garrett Behner with 36:53 on the first half clock.

“We have a tendency after the first five minutes — a lot of teams do — of just letting down,” Malone said. “You celebrate in your heart and you’ve still got X amount of minutes left to play. You heard me coaching. We weren’t making the adjustments we needed to make, then we tended to gamble a bit too much.”

The Rovers got the equalizer when Mario LaGuardia broke away and took a shot that was saved by goalkeeper Collin Himes. On the rebound, the ball was put in the net by Roostown’s Teddy Durbak.

“We needed to regroup,” Malone said. “Our formations were wrong after our goal. We started to pack it in on defense and that wasn’t the thing for us to do. We’re an attacking-style team.”

The Red Devils hunkered down defensively, but took a few too many risks in the back end in surrendering the go-ahead goal to Cory Banks off Durbak’s assist with 9:41 remaining in the contest.

“We could not afford overtime,” Malone said. “We went in saying we were not going to overtime. That’s the mindset we had. After we scored our goal, they responded. Once they got the second goal, they started to play defense. They could play for the tie and they knew we were limited by the amount of players we have. They could afford to go to overtime. We made adjustments, but we couldn’t execute.”