CORTLAND – Whenever Lakeview and Champion meet on the soccer field, records are meaningless, as the Lakeview Bulldogs found out the past two seasons.
Lakeview’s only two regular season losses in 2011 and 2012 came at the hands of its biggest rival, and coming into Tuesday night’s contest at Don Richards Field, the Bulldogs boasted an undefeated record, while the Golden Flashes had struggled with a 2-4 mark. The trend of tight matches between the two continued, as the Bulldogs pulled out the win in a 5-4 thriller, the second time in five seasons the two played out that scoreline.
“You can throw out the records,” Lakeview coach Nate Mailach said. “We knew that they were struggling a little bit, and our guys should know better than to try and get in a track meet with them because they’re going to play hard. Coach (Tyler) LeMon’s got them fired up over there, ready to play, and it was whoever had the ball last was going to win tonight.”
Lakeview (8-0-1) showed its offensive might throughout the match, peppering Champion (2-5) with 28 shots, but the Bulldogs’ finishing let them down as 14 shots were on target – two of those shots banging off the post.
Champion goalkeeper Kyle Brown got a paw to seven of their shots.
Meanwhile, the Flashes took advantage of their opportunities, scoring on all four shots on goal.
“We were definitely peppering the goal, but getting them on target was another thing,” Mailach said. “If we got a point for every shot we took, we would have blown them out. I think they were 3 for 3 at one point, probably the best shooting percentage in high school history.”
One Bulldog who came out motivated was Matt Pasternak. The junior midfielder scored two of Lakeview’s three first-half goals.
After Lakeview dominated possession out of the gates, Pasternak gave his team the lead in the 11th minute, charging from the left wing to pick up a rebound from an Austin Olbrych shot and hammering it into the back of the net. Then, in the 40th minute, the junior picked up another clearance on the right side of the penalty and curled it into the opposite side of the net to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead.
“I was pumped,” Pasternak said. “It’s always a great game when we play Champion. You know you have to come out for big games. It’s hitting shots like in the first half.”
The Flashes didn’t quit, however, as John Prebonick fired a 45-yard free kick that bounced off the crossbar and went over the line to cut the lead in half before the break.
After an Olbrych goal stretched the lead back out to two goals in the 57th minute, Champion scored two goals in a 15-minute time span to tie it up. Eric Karafa curled a 20-yard shot off a clearance from one his long throws into the right side netting during the 59th minute, and in the 74th minute, another free kick from distance found Zach Johnson, who placed a header into the lower left corner of the net.
“We’re just a team that swings on momentum,” Champion coach Tyler LeMon said. “Everything’s momentum with these guys. If we get one, we’re ready to play. Tonight, they fought back when they were scored on. It was completely different and what we need to do every game. We need to play like we’re playing Lakeview every game.”
A Colton Ainsley goal in the 76th minute gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
With much of the season still to go and another matchup with Champion left, the Bulldogs have a long way to go before they can clinch an unbeaten regular season, but skating past their bogey team is a good start, Pasternak said.
“Every game’s a dog fight,” Pasternak said. “We’ve got to come out every game and know that we could win or we could lose and hope for the best.”