CORTLAND - For the second year in a row, Cardinal Mooney and Lakeview met in the district finals, and for the second year in a row, the Bulldogs came out on top.
One year after ending the Cardinals' 10-consecutive district title streak, the Bulldogs repeated as district champions with a 2-1 win Saturday night.
Lakeview coach Nate Mailach, whose team is 18-1, said that he wants his program to be like Mooney, and this title takes it one step closer.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Lakeview’s A.J. Miller goes for the midair bicycle kick in front of the Cardinal Mooney goal during their game on Saturday night. Lakeview defeated Cardinal Mooney, 2-1.
"Mooney is a program that we emulate," he said. "We want to be just like them. We got a long way to go before we catch up to a program like that, but we're gaining ground slowly but surely.
"It kind of resembles the Lakers and Celtics of the (1980's). We don't play each other during the year, but come championship time, here we are meeting again."
With the score tied late in the match, Lakeview's Colton Ainsley put his team in the lead for good in the 73rd minute.
The ball bounced around in the box before landing at the junior forward's feet from just inside the 18-yard box. Ainsley fired a low shot that Mooney (11-6-1) goalkeeper Robert Premec had no chance at stopping.
Mailach said that he looked for the team's leading scorer to get that game-winning goal.
"The last 10 minutes, I looked at him, and I said, 'All you got to do is get us one,' " Mailach said. "He did that. He delivers in big moments. He's on fire right now."
To go along with his goal, Ainsley's speed created all sorts of problems for the Cardinals, mostly through exhausting the back four defenders. After 70-plus minutes of cutting out through balls to Ainsley, the defenders had little energy left for Mooney's push for a late equalizer.
"He doesn't wear down, but he'll wear down the defense," Mailach said. "Those guys were grabbing their shorts at the end of the game because they were so tired from chasing him all around."
Ainsley's goal changed the match, as Mooney had the momentum for most of the second half.
In the 55th minute, sophomore midfielder Myles Harris tied the game for Mooney with a low shot that squeaked by Lakeview goalkeeper Clay Becker. The goal energized the Cardinals, with the team taking multiple shots from distance.
Mooney coach Lou Cali Jr. said that after not shooting enough in the first half, the aggressiveness in the second half was welcome, but unfortunately, the score line didn't go Mooney's way.
"We struggled with our touches in the first half," Cali said. "Having said that, I thought that we controlled everything between the (18-yard boxes) in the first half - we just weren't taking shots. In the second half, we took shots, and unfortunately, they matched us one goal apiece."
With the win, Lakeview moves onto the regional semifinal match against Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Brecksville Wednesday. CVCA beat Revere in its district final on Saturday, 2-0.