COLUMBUS — The East Knox Bulldogs soccer team ended its best season ever on a note of hope, despite dropping the second round OHSAA Division III tournament match to top-seeded and undefeated Grandview Heights, 6-1, on Saturday afternoon.
It looked good for the usually slow-starting Bulldogs, who yielded only a pair of first-half goals to the Bobcats’ high-powered offense.
“It was a strange game in that we played our best soccer in the first half,” said East Knox coach Geoff Green. “Normally, we play well in the second half and not-so-well in the first.”
First-year goalkeeper Robert Fields survived a barrage of first-half shots on goal from the Grandview Heights (15-0-2) front line to help keep the Bulldogs close.
“(Fields) had quite a workout from (Grandview Heights) firing from all over the place. They were their own worst enemies at times, taking lots of shots from way outside, but Robert did a good job in stopping most of them.”
With the Bobcats up 2-0, Greene and his team had much to be optimistic about at halftime.
“We hung in there really,” said Geoff Green. “Just to be down 2-0 at halftime, I thought, we did really well. I thought, ‘We’re in this game. This is only 2-0. We have a chance.’ You start thinking the impossible. We didn’t have a whole lot of chances in that first half with shots on goal, but we did have a couple. I said to the guys, ‘If we had put one of those in, this would be a completely new ball game.’ If we had come in 2-1 at halftime, it would have changed everything but we couldn’t quite get that first goal in the first half.”
After the half, the Bobcats caught fire and put a quick one in the net. Then, the Bulldogs put one in their own net — a mistake that made the Bobcats’ lead 4-0.
The Bobcats scored again before East Knox’ Jay Green booted in the only Bulldogs’ goal midway through the second half, cutting the Bobcats’ lead the 5-1.
It was the seventh goal scored by any team against the Grandview Heights this year. East Knox is only the sixth team to score a goal against the dominant Bobcats this season.
Otherwise Jay Green, along with Josh Zemina and Alex Norris watched the rest of their shots on goal go for naught against the Bobcats outstanding defense.
For the Bulldogs, reaching the Sectional Final was beyond the dreams of most when the season started.
“Had you told me that we would win 10 games this year, I wouldn’t have thought so,” said Geoff Green. “Six or seven, maybe, but we ended up winning 10, so that was nice. (Grandview Heights) is a very good team and they are seeded No. 1 for a reason. We went in there, knowing that it was going to be a tough one. The kids realized that we did better than expectations — even for ourselves. They all played well, today. We played some very good soccer. We played up as I think you do when play better teams. It makes you play a better style yourself. We had some players on our team like Stephanie Cea, who had their best game of the season. Several of our kids played as good as they have ever played, Kirk Moss, Noah Phillips, Zach Zawicki and Sam Leaning.”
Reaching this level is a milestone achievement for the Bulldogs’ program as they strive to compete with the higher-echelon teams. As more teams discover that the Bulldogs are for real and that they have a grass, soccer-only home field, they will see better teams on their schedule in the future.
“We talked, on the bus on the way home, about tournaments next year,” said Geoff Green. “We’re signing up for a couple of those. I mean, just getting more exposure, more touches on the ball and just going out and playing more soccer. I think that’s what ultimately what makes a team a better team.”