EASTLAKE—A deflected ball snuck into the corner of the goal with nine minutes left in overtime as Austintown Fitch pulled out a 4-3 win over host North at Carter Stadium in a Division I sectional final on Saturday.
The Rangers trailed 1-0 early before holding leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before the Falcons scored the final two goals of the game.
“It was the same old story for us this year,” North coach Steve Misick said. “The bigger, stronger teams, we couldn’t match up. They were a pretty big team. We had the same amount of chances they did, we just didn’t put all of ours in and they put in one more than we did.”
Ethan Macik gave the Falcons an early lead when he collected a long throw-in and buried the ball in the back of the net with 35:21 remaining in the first half.
Dominic Kustura tied it 14 minutes later with his 10th goal of the season. Luka Dedic then gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with just over four minutes left in the half when he picked off a ricochet from the post and punched it in for the lead.
Kustura nearly scored his second of the game early in the second half but Fitch keeper Jamey Sorrells made a diving save.
That play inspired the Falcons on the other end as Fitch took advantage of some confusion on North’s defensive end.
North’s inexperienced defense had struggled at times this season to clear loose balls from around the net.
“Our thing all year was we couldn’t defend,” Misick said. “We had a lot of inexperience. We lost six starters from last year’s team so there were a lot of new faces.”
Kustura responded with his second goal of the night just three minutes later to give the Rangers a temporary 3-2 lead.
The Falcons again scored in traffic in front of the net to force overtime as the Rangers had trouble keeping up with the bigger Falcons.
“You could see the momentum-changing,” Misick said. “Were we going to be able to get the PKs and that? No, we had to score a goal. That’s unfortunate. They’re an eight-win, now a nine-win team, and we’re an eight-win team. It was a struggle all year because of the schedule and things were condensed. At one point, we played eight games in 18 games and we played Kenston in our eighth game. We were out of gas.”
Fitch was awarded a free kick in the overtime time period and the game-winning goal was scored off of that deflection.
North closed out the year with an 8-7 record and a lot of talent returning in 2021, although that isn’t much consolation for the four seniors who closed out their careers on Saturday.
“We had limited success but we gained a lot of experience and we have almost everybody back,” Misick said. “We started five sophomores and we had a freshman come off the bench, so the future looks bright. We’re going to be one of the top dogs next year but you hate to think about next year. We wanted to win today.”