By Gary R. Rasberry
This week is a big week for the Celina boy's soccer team.
The Bulldogs, unbeaten in the Western Buckeye League at 4-0-2, had to face once-beaten Ottawa-Glandorf last night and unbeaten Defiance awaits on Thursday in a chance to keep their hopes for a league title alive.
Monday brought the O-G Titans to the Soccer Stadium and Celina's Bulldogs were up for the challenge.
It took an amazing goal from Andy Sell for the Bulldogs to stay unbeaten and get the 1-0 win over the Titans. Celina goes to 8-2-2 on the season and 5-0-2 in the WBL as the Titans suffer just their second loss of the season, both coming in league play, to go to 8-2-1 overall and 5-2 in league play.
"It was a battle," said Celina coach Bruce Strine. "It was a war. You win some and you lose some, and I'm glad to walk off the field today winning." The Bulldog defense had to notch it up a bit as the Titans liked to keep the ball in the air to get their chances at the goal. With throw-ins that worked in the same way as corner kicks, the Titans had plenty of chances at the goal.
"They play well in the air, and that's not where we play well," said Strine. "Unfortunately, that's where we made some mistakes kicking the ball out and letting them have some throw-ins. That was dangerous."
With just under 11 minutes left in the first half, Andy Sell booted a ball from 35 to 40 yards away from the goal. The ball bounced up as Titans keeper Aaron Leader came out to retrieve the ball and the ball went over the keeper's head and into the goal. The Celina players mobbed Sell as the Bulldogs got, what ended up being, the only goal of the game.
"It wasn't pretty," said Strine of Sell's goal. "I don't know if it hit a rut or (Leader) just misjudged it, but's it in the net."
Matt Leugers gave his usual great effort in goal, stopping five shots total, but on several occasions, Leugers came out and appeared to be burned as he was unable to get back into the goal.
His teammates, though, covered his back when needed. In the last two minutes, Eric Braun made two big header saves when Leugers was out of the box, keeping the Titans scoreless in the first half.
"It's a good thing Eric was playing back at sweep," said Strine. "I told him that he plays in the air the best. We played so much of the game in the air, and we had no business playing in the air."
It appeared that the good fortune of Celina ended with 61/2 minutes left. The Titans had a long throw-in. An O-G player headed the ball to Ronnie Maynard, who appeared to have kicked it in to tie the match at 1-1 with 6:28 left.
The official nearest the goal immediately waved off the goal and signaled for offsides, despite the objection from several O-G players.
"It was unfortunate, the offsides call, for them," said Strine. "When we release on the throw-in, we know the post guy had to be offsides. The minute it's touched (the ball), you have to get back onside. I think it was a good call."
The Titans had several more chances to score as time wound down, but Leugers came out and made several stops. One last chance in the waning seconds went right of the goal. Celina took its time getting the ball into play as the officials whistled the game complete.
"I think it motivated us to get off our heels and start moving forward," said Strine of the non-goal. "Then we started getting some looks at the goal, and that got pressure off our defense. We played way too much defense tonight. Fortunately, our guys just hung in there. I can't be more pleased with the team. The guys worked hard."
With one of the huge games this week out of the way, the Bulldogs now turn their focus to Defiance. Celina must win to stay alive in the WBL chase as Defiance also has to play O-G next week.
"This is where we wanted to be," said Strine. "To be able to determine our destiny in the WBL. We'll be able to do that."
In the junior varsity match, Celina beat O-G, 2-1. Andrew Menchhofer and Jacob Fledderjohann had the goals for the Bulldogs.