The third time proved to be a charm for the Mansfield Christian boys’ soccer team. Having played in the state semi finals in 2000 and 2011, the Flames failed to advance to the championship game on both occassions.
That all changed Wednesday evening at rain-soaked Boliantz Stadium at Nordonia High School in Macedonia.
Mansfield Christian (21-1) shut out Gates Mills Hawken 3-0 to advance to the Division-III boy’s championship match at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Flames will play Cincinnati Summit Country Day at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“Our game plan was simple and really never changes from match to match”, said first year head coach Jesse Rider. “We want to eliminate mistakes, keep possession of the ball and dictate the flow of the game. I think we did a great job of all three tonight.”
At the 15:33 mark of the first half, sophomore midfielder Sam Paul served a ball in from 10 yards off the touch line on the right flank into the penaly box to a waiting David Cochran. The talented sophomore forward went skyward and headed the ball into the goal span past the reach of Gates Mills keeper Grant Gilchrist (seven saves in the match) to put Christian on top 1-0.
Hawken (13-8-1), which has played in the state finals the past two years, was no match for the Flames. Christian dominated every aspect of the game and was especially relentless on winning the ball in the middle of the pitch.
“We knew Hawken was an outstanding team, but we were able to disrupt their game strategy and caused problems in their attack,” Rider said. “After that first goal we seemed to play with even more confidence down the stretch.”
“There’s no doubt about it,” said Hawken head coach Dani Giulvezan, “Mansfield Christian is one of the finest teams we’ve played all year. They outplayed us tonight and they deserved to win.”
The Hawks were called for a tripping foul just outside the left side of the penalty box, resulting in a direct free kick. Senior midfielder Josh Cochran took the kick, which rocketed into the upper corner of the goal, for the score at the 38:08 mark to put the Flames on top 2-0 going into halftime.
“We put together some great runs offensively, but I can’t say enough about our defense,” said Rider, whose team outshot the Hawks 11-3. “Senior defender Matt Millard stopped virtually everything that Hawken sent thru the middle. All of our backs contributed in the defensive third.”
Christian’s final goal came at the 49:31 mark of the second half off of the double assist (two, one-touch passes) of junior forward Brendan Ernsberger and David Cochran. The second touch was an aerial flick to sophomore midfielder Brandon Mount, who headed the ball into the far side of the goal span to give the Flames the 3-0 win.
Mansfield Christian senior goalkeeper Caleb Young recorded two saves in the box.