CLEVELAND — Amherst learned a couple lessons Wednesday in its much anticipated showdown with defending national and state champion St. Ignatius, a game that featured the Nos. 1 and 9 teams in Ohio.
First, that it can play with the Wildcats and perhaps, on a different night, beat them.
And second, that there are far better ways to handle prosperity.
The Comets, down a goal at the half, scored in the 50th and 52nd minutes and had their sizable fan base on its feet, and the Wildcats on their heels. And in 15 seconds, it was gone.
St. Ignatius scored on the ensuing kickoff, as Nate Fahey ran unmarked down the middle of the field and beat Amherst’s charging goalkeeper, Maximo Meggitt, to even the game at 2. When the Wildcats’ Preston Spurrier scored on an open net 20 minutes later, St. Ignatius had its 15th win of the season, 3-2.
“The final learning step for us is to keep our composure in any situation,” said Amherst coach Brett Thompson, whose team fell to 12-2-1. “We got a little excited after going up; we’re up 2-1 on the No. 1 team in the state, and we’re excited. But there were 28 minutes left, and they scored because we were pumped up.”
On the Wildcats’ eventual game-winner, Matt Foldesy — an Akron recruit who notched the game’s first goal — drove toward the baseline, drawing Meggitt from his line.
Foldesy crossed to Spurrier, whose shot was too tall for the Amherst defenders covering the goal line.
Just before Fahey’s momentum changer, the Comets had taken control. In the 50th minute, Marcus Schmitz’s big throw-in found Andrew Souders inside the 6-yard box, and St. Ignatius goalie Brendan Cash couldn’t corral Souders’ header. Two minutes later, Mark Matos drove the ball up the left sideline and Cash also failed to haul in Matos’ left-footed cross, the ball trickling across the goal line. Speedy Amherst forward Josh Birkline, sliding in to potentially get a touch on the ball, may have distracted Cash on the goal.
But the bounces evened out: After St. Ignatius tied it at 2, Birkline took a through pass from Connor Klekota in the 65th minute — off a rare Wildcats giveaway in their half — but shot it off the far post.
“This is definitely the best game we played all year,” Birkline said. “We came in knowing this was going to be a difficult game, and we answered their early goal well. They’re the best team in the state by far, but we stepped up to their level.”
St. Ignatius’ superior ball-control skills were on full display in the first half, as the Wildcats impressively moved the ball with one-touch passing. And Amherst’s inability to possess the ball cost them 12 minutes in. Foldesy took advantage of a giveaway in the Comets’ end, and squared up an Amherst defender outside the 18-yard penalty area. One move to his right later, Foldesy was in one-on-one with Meggitt, and beat him top shelf for a 1-0 lead. It was Foldesy’s 13th goal of the season.
Amherst had its chances, though, the best of which came in the 33rd minute: Birkline won the ball with a back heel to Klekota near midfield, and Klekota, after a couple dribbles, found a streaking Birkline with a through ball. Birkline settled the ball, but his shot went over the bar.
“They put us under pressure that we hadn’t been under all year,” said St. Ignatius coach Mike McLaughlin, whose team now is 15-1. “Their offensive players were dangerous, and they had us backpedaling and trying to sort things out and we struggled with them a bit. This kind of game is what we expected from them.”
St. Ignatius 3, Amherst 2
- GOALS: (A) Andrew Souders (50th), Mark Matos (52nd); (SI) Matt Foldesy (12th), Nate Fahey (52nd), Preston Spurrier (72nd).
- ASSISTS: (A) Marcus Schmitz; (SI) Foldesy.
- SHOTS: Amherst 7, St. Ignatius 11.
- SHOTS ON GOAL: Amherst 5, St. Ignatius 7.
- SAVES: (A) Maximo Meggitt 4; (SI) Brendan Cash 2.
- CORNER KICKS: Amherst 1, St. Ignatius 2.
- GOAL KICKS: Amherst 5, St. Ignatius 4.
- OFFSIDE: Amherst 2, St. Ignatius 1.
- FOULS: Amherst 8, St. Ignatius 7.
- CARDS: None.
- HALFTIME: St. Ignatius, 1-0.
- JUNIOR VARSITY: St. Ignatius, 8-1.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.