YORK TWP. — For the last two years, Buckeye’s boys soccer team has been delivering knockouts to the rest of the Patriot Athletic Conference.
On Wednesday night, Firelands landed more punches.
The Falcons rallied from a one-goal deficit to score four in the second half and hand the Bucks a 4-2 loss in a Stars Division battle at the Thiele-Pierce Track and Soccer Complex.
Buckeye (3-2, 1-1) saw its 16-game PAC unbeaten streak come to an end.
“Firelands came out with a lot of passion and a lot of enthusiasm and we tried to meet it,” said Bucks coach Dan Collins, whose program was 14-0-2 in its last 16 conference games. “As soon as they found the back of the net on that first goal, they just caught the momentum and kept it. I thought we tried to battle back and our guys worked hard, but it just wasn’t enough.”
The result also ended a long draught for the Falcons (6-0, 3-0), who secured their first win over the Bucks since a 4-3 overtime decision in a 2003 sectional.
But Firelands didn’t need a pregame history lesson because it was on a mission even after falling behind following a penalty kick by Buckeye’s Ryan Cobb.
“We’re a second-half team, and honestly, Coach just put it on us and told us we had a job to do,” forward Nathan Yorks said. “We could’ve been down 5-0 and we would’ve come out and beat them 6-5 because we were here to win. It might’ve taken that goal to wake us up, but once we were awake there was no stopping us.”
After Jordan Ruffner drew a foul in the box, Yorks converted a penalty kick. Like Cobb’s first-half attempt, the senior calmly placed the ball in the lower right corner.
The score ignited a Firelands offense that had 27 goals over its first five contests. Over the next 16 minutes, Joshua Mallett scored off a Yorks assist and Yorks netted his second goal — and ninth of the season — after battling a Buckeye defender for 10 yards.
“The pressure was on (for the penalty kick), but that was the pacemaker of the half,” Yorks said. “I just had to stay calm, cool and collected. The team calls on me to take those, and that’s a big responsibility for me, so to stay calm and composed and have the rest of the team rally around and put another three goals away was great.”
The Bucks struggled to get going, but found life with less than 15 minutes remaining. After a pair of missed shots, a corner kick from Dan Oswald found Ryan Grauel on the backside of the box and Grauel pushed the ball in.
That momentum was short-lived, however, as Firelands junior Tristan Clark delivered a back-breaking goal by blasting a free kick from 55 yards that went off the fingertips of goalkeeper Ryan Huber.
“They defended us really well, and they pressed us one half of the field,” Collins said. “But there were opportunities to switch the field and we just couldn’t seem to find them. So, when there were spaces to exploit their defense, we, for some reason, didn’t want to do it.
“We know how to play, and you saw it when we got down two goals and started playing. We have so much talent on this team. It’s just all about the will.”
Not only did the game start two hours earlier than normal due to Firelands’ limited junior varsity numbers, two Buckeye players were late for kickoff after a minor fender-bender on the way to the field. Starting goalkeeper Ryan Huber and Cam Tanner arrived minutes after kickoff and, according to Collins, both are doing fine. Freshman Richard Gatt got the starting nod between the pipes and played the first 8 minutes.
• Buckeye baseball standout and Kent State recruit Eli Kraus served as the public address announcer.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.