SOUTH AMHERST — At halftime of Tuesday’s Division II sectional soccer match between Keystone and Firelands, junior midfielder Nate Yorks challenged his Falcon teammates to rise to the occasion of postseason play.
In the second half he helped them answer the call.
Yorks scored both of his team’s goals as the Falcons delighted the home crowd with a 2-0 victory.
Firelands improved its record to 8-6-3 and will advance to play at Rocky River in the sectional finals Saturday at 4 p.m.
“I asked my teammates at halftime if they wanted it,” Yorks said. “Every single one of them stood up and said, yes, they did. I told them we have 40 minutes to work and let’s go out there and put (Keystone) away.”
In the 46th minute, Yorks turned hard work into results, scoring off a one-touch pass from freshman Jack O’ Keefe. Yorks took the crossing pass 20 yards away from the goal and used his right foot to drive it into the lower left-hand corner past Keystone goalkeeper Logan Priddy.
Yorks added to the Falcons’ lead five minutes later with a wild over-the-shoulder kick that wound up being perfectly placed in the back of the net.
“On that second goal, I just saw the ball coming and there’s not much you can do from that position other than try your best to get something on it and it wound up being a good hit,” Yorks said.
With the lead in hand, it was up to sophomore goalkeeper Bryce Bartolotta to keep the Falcons on top. Although Bartolotta did not take over between the pipes until late in the season, Tuesday’s win was his third shutout of the season.
He turned back all 12 Keystone shots and made a diving save on a shot by Dakota Diederich-Fox late in the first half to keep the game scoreless.
“Keystone was always attacking with four forwards up front,” Bartolotta said. “They are a hard team to stop. After we scored the two goals it made me more nervous back there because I knew that we might let down a little bit and then they can score two quick goals and you wind up in overtime and anything could happen.”
The No. 6 seeded Falcons knew nothing would be easy against No. 7 seed Keystone. The Patriot Athletic Conference foes played to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season.
Firelands dominated most of the first half, maintaining possession in its offensive third but could not score.
“We really needed someone to finish a goal for us to put the game to bed,” Firelands coach Kennie Searight said. “Nate’s been a distributor for us but he’s also a team leader and tonight he stepped up and scored two big goals for us.”
Keystone’s last good scoring chance came in the 72nd minute with a free kick award just at the edge of the box. Diederich-Fox drove the kick into the middle of the defensive wall and then missed wide left with the shot off the deflection.
With no seniors and just four juniors on the roster Yorks knows the momentum from this win could extend beyond this year’s tournament run and into the offseason.
“This win was extremely important for us,” Yorks said. “It’s a huge confidence boost and inspiration going into the off-season to win your first sectional game two years in a row.”
Firelands 2, Keystone 0
- Goals: Yorks 2 (46th minute, 51st minute)
- Assists: O’Keefe, Clark
- Goalkeepers: (K) Priddy (13 saves); (F) Bartolotta (12 saves)
- Shots on goal: K – 12; F – 15
- Corner kicks: K – 5; F – 2
- Fouls: K – 17; F – 13
- Yellow Cards: O’ Keefe (42nd minute)
- Halftime 0-0
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.