For more than 65 minutes, it appeared neither Lake Center Christian nor Loudonville would ever find the back of the net. When the Redbirds finally did, it proved to be just enough to eke out a 1-0 sectional tournament win.
For more than 65 minutes, it appeared neither Lake Center Christian nor Loudonville would ever find the back of the net. When the Redbirds finally did, it proved to be just enough to eke out a 1-0 sectional tournament win. It was a physical match full of hard tackles and collisions as both teams battled the full 80 minutes.
The Redbirds (6-8-1) claimed a road win in a game with few scoring chances on either side and near-misses that had both teams’ fans groaning in disbelief.
“I’m proud of our guys, they just continued to play with heart all game long,” LCCS coach Derek Taylor said after the loss.
Junior forward Will Henley tallied the lone goal of the match in the 66th minute, corralling the ball 15 yards out and straight on with the goal mouth. His shot was just out of reach of a diving Danny Raines, the Tigers’ senior goalkeeper’s only mistake of the match.
Just moments earlier, a sprawling Raines lunged out at an attacking Henley and smothered a ball just as it left Henley’s foot for a key save to keep the game scoreless.
There was no panic for LCCS after the goal and the Tigers managed two good looks in the game’s final minutes that senior keeper Allen Berry was able to fend off. The better of the two came off the right foot of sophomore midfielder Josh Sample, who eluded a defender, shook free near the goal and had Berry 1-on-1 within eight yards, only to pull his shot just left. As the ball slid by the goal, Sample stopped and buried his head in his hands, disappointed for missing out on his team’s best scoring chance of the game.
"This really was a game of inches, and if you didn’t see it, you would have a tough time understanding how close it really was,” Taylor explained. “We had a lot of opportunities, but we just could not find the back of the net today. I give Loudonville credit, though, because they deserved to win.”
Moments later, with their season winding down, sophomore forward Caleb Schroll got a breakaway from the Loudonville defense, only to have his shot from 12 yards out snuffed by Berry, who was active in the box all game long.
The Tigers (6-7-5) could not manage any good shots on goal for the remainder of the contest.
Despite a vocal fan base that included a pre-game sign to run through and members of the school’s girls soccer team in neon shirts and the names and numbers of players from the boys team painted on the backs of the shirts, they couldn’t come away with a win.
Although LCCS was the higher seed in the contest and earned the home game, it was clear from the outset that the two sides were evenly matched. Much of the first half was played in the middle two-thirds of the field, leaving Raines and Berry to pace back and forth like two caged tigers, barking out orders to their defense and positioning defenders on free kicks. The contest was a physical one, as several players went down after hard collisions and had to be helped to the sideline.
Page 2 of 2 - There were disallowed goals on both sides as well, one for LCCS due to an offsides penalty by the linesman on the west side of the field, and another for Loudonville on an indirect free kick that went into the goal without being touched, making it illegal.
Ultimately, it was the Redbirds who proved toughest. They advanced to a Brunswick Division III sectional final with Doylestown Chippewa. With the loss, LCCS’ season comes to a close, but not without plenty of strides forward for a team that still skewed young this season and was also learning Taylor’s system and approach throughout the year. Still, the first-year head coach was proud of his team and insisted there was no other group he would rather lead.
“I would rather lose with this group of guys than win with anyone else,” Taylor said.