The Cardinals will meet West Branch in a Division II final on Saturday.
By DOUG CHAPIN
CANFIELD -- Despite dominating play with a 12-1 advantage in shots, Canfield High found itself trailing Champion 1-0 at halftime of a boys Division II district semifinal Wednesday night.
The top-seeded Cardinals were in danger of seeing the pressure to score a tying goal build as the minutes went by in the second half. It was important for Canfield to get off to a good start in the second half, according to coach Phil Simone.
"One of the things we talked about at halftime was that the game was going to be determined for us in the first five minutes of the second half. We had to really get after them right away. To get a goal less than a minute into the half was just what we needed," Simone said.
That goal by Kurt Ulbricht knotted the game and allowed the Cardinals to relax and continue to pound away at the Golden Flashes' net. Canfield (13-2-3) finished with a 22-3 advantage in shots and scored twice more in its 3-1 triumph.
Canfield advances to the district final Saturday at 7 p.m. at home against third-seeded West Branch, a 2-0 winner over Salem in the other semifinal.
"At halftime we basically had to get back together. We were starting to argue a little bit and we needed to get back together playing as a team," Simone said. "We had controlled the game in the first half but gave up the goal on a problem we've had throughout the season. Our defense tends to drift one way or the other and we leave the backside open."
Trent Williams, one of just four senior starters for the fourth-seeded Flashes (12-5-1), scored the goal with 25:52 remaining on the first-half clock. Sophomore Dave Palm started the play down the right side and switched the ball to fellow sophomore Brian Vesco who was wide open on the left.
Vesco's cross found Williams open in the middle and he buried the ball in the back of the net.
"We started with five in the back, figuring Canfield would push four forwards up. We didn't want them to get a quick score while we were getting used to the artificial surface," Champion coach Shawnn Wilson said. "We were waiting for a chance to counter. We worked all week, practicing on cement for much of the time, on counter-attacking from the outside in, and that's how it worked out."
Ulbricht's equalizer came after a throw-in scramble in front of Champion keeper Tyler Kish. The ball was cleared, but right to Ulbricht who fired low from about 20 yards out. Kish got his hands on the ball, but lost control and it trickled into the net.
Canfield's two other goals came under similar circumstances with a lot of traffic in front of the net and Kish, who would up with 12 saves, getting his hands on the ball momentarily. Nick Benedetto scored with 32:12 on the clock and John Kanotz closed out the scoring at the 6:25 mark with an assist from Jason Murdoch.
Though the three goals didn't come on Canfield's best offensive plays, they still counted.
"If we could have finished a little better we'd have had some more," Simone said. "We still had a lot more opportunities than the goals that we scored.
"You have to have some luck in the tournament. The three that went in might have been from shots that weren't so good, but we had some better shots that didn't go in."
Canfield is back in the district final for the first time since dropping an overtime decision to Cardinal Mooney in 2003. It was the second straight year that Canfield lost the district title game to Mooney.
In 2001, Champion also lost a district final to Mooney, in Division III. The Flashes were Division III district champions in 2003 and 2004 before moving up to Division II last season.
Simone said he expects a battle Saturday against West Branch.
"We know West Branch will be gunning for us since we knocked them out of the tournament last year," he said.
The game will be preceded at 4 p.m. by the boys Division III district final between Mooney and Ursuline.