All season long, the Fairfield High School boys soccer team has been walking a tightrope.
Finding a way to scratch a goal here and there when needed and then hanging on to the bitter end in compiling a 12-1-4 mark in winning the Greater Miami Conference title and advancing to a Division I sectional final.
Tuesday night at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium, the balancing act came to a 3-0 end at the hands of a Loveland squad the Indians had already defeated this year.
“We have lived life on the edge all year,” Fairfield coach Danny Landrum said. “We have always been able to find that goal, and tonight we didn’t.”
While the Indians controlled play through most of the first half, they entered the intermission down 2-0.
Loveland scored on a pair of counter strikes at 31:30 and 23:18 and outshot Fairfield 5-3 in the opening half.
“We’ve had the best defense in Cincinnati all year, and tonight we came out flat,” Landrum said. “We had chances to score. We just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Fairfield’s Chris Luna had two golden opportunities in between the Loveland goals, but couldn’t capitalize.
With 28:02 remaining in the first half, Luna drew the Loveland keeper out and had an open net to shoot at, but put the ball just over.
Less than a minute later, Luna broke down the right side all alone and rifled a shot, and the Tiger keeper made a diving save. Luna collected the rebound and put it back on goal, but was turned away again.
“We put together a game plan, and they executed it exactly how we drew it up,” Loveland coach Mike Dunlap said after his squad improved to 12-6-1. “At this time of the year, it is all about executing.”
Despite the 2-0 hole at half, Landrum felt good about the Indians’ chances against a team they beat 2-1 in August.
“We pounded them the first time we played. The score was not even close to how the game went,” Landrum said. “Even down 2-0 at half, we knew we were in good position.”
That all changed less than 30 seconds into the second half when Loveland converted a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead.
“That was the backbreaker,” Landrum said. “That was the game.”
All the third goal did on the other sideline was make Dunlap more nervous.
“That team can score three goals in 30 seconds, so 39 minutes was a lot of time left for them,” he said.
Fairfield came close to closing the gap as Luna rifled a shot off the post with 30:57 left and poked one just wide with 5:30 remaining, and Jose Carreon drilled a shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and dropped straight down before being cleared out.
“We didn’t close the door,” Landrum said. “Give Loveland all the credit in the world. It is tough after having such a tremendous season.
“We felt like we could make a run, but we also knew we could lose if we were flat and didn’t play the way we were capable of, and that’s what happened.”
Loveland advances to face St. Xavier for a district championship Saturday at Princeton.
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