HENRIETTA TWP. — Firelands boys soccer coach John Fenix has never been a fan of moral victories, but he was proud of his squad Tuesday night.
Despite a 2-0 loss to Buckeye in their Rocky River Division II sectional opener, the Falcons coach watched his team complete a season that last fall they never thought would be possible.
“I just told the boys that it’s been a remarkable journey from last year to this year,” Fenix said. “There’s never a good way to lose, but just to host a tournament game — which we would’ve never dreamt of last year — and to play in a competitive game and give your best, that’s all you can ask for.”
A year removed from a 2-14 season, Firelands finished the season Tuesday 9-6-2 and with just 12 players in uniform the Falcons gave the Bucks (6-9-2) all they could handle.
After an evenly-played opening 20 minutes, Buckeye’s Kyle Roberts blasted a 25-yard strike past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Garrett Kelling to give the visitors the early advantage, just seconds after the senior narrowly missed a try that sailed wide left.
“I felt a lot better after that one,” said a relieved Roberts. “On the first one, my coaches were giving me a little bit of a hard time, but I was just glad I could produce for them.
“It’s my senior year and I want to stay in this tournament as long as I can and I’m loving it that we won and just glad we can keep this going.” The shot was a just what the Bucks needed, but was a back-breaker for the Falcons. “I think that first goal took the wind out of our sails,” Fenix said.
“It came out of nowhere. The game had been pretty even until then.
“I think they did a good job defensively and they certainly have greater depth than we do and their athleticism is better than ours overall and they made it difficult.”
The Bucks defense took over as the backline made several crucial clears to stymie counterattacks by Firelands and sophomore goalie Aaron Klubnik was solid stopping five shots en route to the team’s fifth shutout of the season.
Buckeye also kept Falcons’ leading scorer David Zurcher (17 goals coming into the game) in check for the entire game.
“They came out and played hard, right from the get-go,” Buckeye coach Matt Patera said. “That was kind of our downfall this season. We weren’t consistent, but here they played two good halves of soccer and did very well.”
Zurcher did manage one of Firelands’ five shots on goal 10 minutes into the contest that was collected by Klubnik. Buckeye got a muchneeded insurance goal midway through the second when Sheamus Dalton lifted a shot that looked as if it was going to sail out of play over the goal, but found the top of the net.
Although the Falcons saw their season come to an end, the squad has a lot to build on for next fall according to their coach.
“This has been an incredible season,” he said. “It’s been an incredible turn-around with really no change in personnel other than two freshmen. It has been a remarkable journey.”
The sectional opener was a physical one to say the least as four yellow cards were issued — three players and one to the Buckeye bench and one of the ball retrievers was asked to leave after exchanging words with the center referee.
Buckeye 2, Firelands 0
- GOALS: (B) Kyle Roberts (17th); (B) Sheamus Dalton (64th minute)
- ASSISTS: None.
- SHOTS: Buckeye 9, Firelands 8.
- SHOTS ON GOAL: Buckeye 6, Firelands 5.
- SAVES: (B) Aaron Klubnik 5, (F) Garrett Kelling 4,
- CORNER KICKS: Buckeye 1, Firelands 3
- HALFTIME: Buckeye 1-0.
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.