April 19, 2014

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Boys soccer: Firelands ends title drought, blanks Wellington to clinch share of Patriot Athletic Conference crown

Firelands High School junior Jordan Ruffner, center, juggles the ball in an attempt to steer around Wellington High School freshman Hayden Bartolovich, left, and senior Joseph Provoznik. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Firelands High School junior Jordan Ruffner, center, juggles the ball in an attempt to steer around Wellington High School freshman Hayden Bartolovich, left, and senior Joseph Provoznik. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

WELLINGTON — Firelands secured a tie for the Patriot Athletic Conference soccer championship Saturday afternoon, a first for the Falcons since their days in the old Lorain County Conference.

With two goals by senior scoring leader Nate Yorks, the Falcons blanked Wellington 3-0, improving to 11-1-1, 8-1 in the WSC. It was goalkeeper Bryce Bartolotta’s second shutout of the week.

If Buckeye (7-1 PAC) loses its conference match with Brookside on Wednesday, Firelands will own the title outright.

The Bucks’ only conference loss was to Firelands. The Falcons lost 1-0 to Lutheran West on Sept. 28.

Firelands had the game in hand by halftime, which helped Yorks breathe easier.

“This is one of the first times we’ve come out in the first half and put a team away,” Yorks said. “We’ve had a little scoring drought lately, but I think we finished this game in the first half.”

Junior Jordan Ruffner put the Falcons up 1-0 when he nailed a header in the 14th minute off a corner kick by Yorks.

Yorks made it 2-0 with a goal in the 21st minute after freshman Patrick Brightbill set him up with a nice pass. And Yorks added the crusher from about 30 yards in the 38th minute off an assist from Ruffner.

The Falcons were again strong defensively. They allowed the Dukes nine total shots, only three of which were on goal.

It’s not that Wellington didn’t have chances. Sophomore Daniel Butti put Bartolotta to work with a shot right on in the 33rd minute. And the Dukes had another chance in 36th minute off a corner kick that created a scramble in front of the Firelands net, but Bartolotta covered it up.

The Dukes (4-8-2, 3-5-1) played a stronger second half. They got three shots away in a five-minute stretch starting in the 46th minute. Also, junior Ian Lara missed just wide to the right side on the restart after a Firelands foul in the 73rd minute, and two minutes later, senior Russell Gifford put his free kick right at Bartolotta.

Firelands had other opportunities, as well. Notably, in the eighth minute, Ruffner fired a shot from point-blank range, causing Dukes keeper Jacob Miller to make a difficult save. Miller made a great punch save on a hard shot by junior Josh Mallett in the 18th minute, and freshman Casey Krueger’s shot put Miller to work in the 72nd minute after a pass from Ruffner.

Shared or not, Falcons coach Kennie Searight was elated about the championship.

“We have a great community,” he said. “The kids and the parents are so supportive. This the culmination of a lot of hard work by people in the community.”

The match was something of a homecoming for the Firelands coaching staff. Searight and assistant coach Kurk Ziegler played at Wellington under former longtime coach Bill Little.

“Everything we’ve built at Firelands is a result of what we were taught by coach Little,” Searight said. “He’s the best coach, teacher and mentor a kid could ask for and we owe a lot to him for what we’ve accomplished.”

Although disappointed in the result, Dukes coach Bill Bogan said he liked the way his team played after the break.

“We decided to play in the second half,” he said. “That’s been our season. That’s been our MO. We don’t seem to be able to play two halves of good soccer.”

Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or soccer@bobdaniels.info.

Firelands 3, Wellington 0

GOALS: (F) Nate Yorks 2 (21st, 38th minutes), Jordan Ruffner (14th).
ASSISTS: (F) Yorks, Ruffner, Patrick Brightbill.
SAVES: (F) Bryce Bartolotta 4; (W) Jacob Miller 8.
GOAL KICKS: Firelands 8; Wellington 14.
CORNER KICKS: Firelands 3; Wellington 2.
OFFSIDE: Firelands 1.
HANDBALLS: Firelands 1.
FOULS: Firelands 11; Wellington 10.
YELLOW CARD: (W) Michael Dowdell (64th minute).
HALFTIME: Firelands, 3-0.