CANONSBURG – Fourteen minutes into the match and Canon-McMillan was already facing a two-goal deficit.
The Big Macs erased it.
Down one goal more than halfway through the second half, Canon-McMillan’s Nino Civitate had an answer.
Section rival Mt. Lebanon wasn’t going to allow for it a third C-M comeback.
After collecting the ball at his feet while running to the right goalpost, Liam Donald brought his sweeping right leg through and rolled a goal into the bottom left-hand corner of the net with 2:08 left to break a tie and lift Mt. Lebanon over Canon-McMillan, 4-3, in a Class 4A Section 2 boys soccer match Tuesday night.
“I think we just ran out of time,” said Canon-McMillan interim coach Martin Pletz. “I thought we largely controlled the game. Our overall play was good but we just couldn’t stick the ball in the net one last time.”
Pletz was coaching for suspended C-M coach Larry Fingers.
The late goal didn’t give Canon-McMillan (8-2-1, 11-3-1) much time to respond outside of a hurried corner with 30 seconds left. The Big Macs’ five-match winning streak was snapped.
It also clinched for Mt. Lebanon (11-0-0, 13-1-1) its first section championship since 2010. The Blue Devils haven’t lost since their first match of the season.
“After a game like that we are happy to be on the right side of it,” said Mt. Lebanon coach Bill Perz. “It was a back-and-forth game. Canon-Mac has a bunch of dynamic players and can move the ball from side to side really well. Anywhere from 40 yards and in is a set piece. They kept us under pressure until the last 30 seconds.”
It looked as if Mt. Lebanon would cruise to its 13th consecutive victory.
Seconds after Blue Devils goalkeeper Steven Vines robbed Tommy Samosky with a diving save, Mt. Lebanon’s Danny Simboro opened the scoring with 30:04 left in the first half. That lead was doubled three minutes later when Zach Nellas pounced on a weak rebound off a free kick to make it 2-0.
That was until C-M’s Joey Fonagy won a pair of battles in the box exactly 10 minutes apart – with 17:10 and 7:10 remaining in the first half – to score a pair of goals and tie the game at 2-2.
“When we conceded the first and second (goals), I told them to keep playing,” Pletz said. “Our players were largely doing what we were asking of them. It was just a matter of staying the course, keep playing and believing the goals would come. They did, at least in the first half.”
A little over halfway into the second half, the Big Macs answered a late first-half goal from Mt. Lebanon that gave it a 3-2 lead.
After multiple chances for Canon-McMillan to tie the match in the second half, Civitate finally helped the Big Macs break through. A couple of one-touch passes eventually found the foot of Fonagy, whose shot was stopped but bounded across an open goalmouth to an attacking Civitate to tie the score with 18:59 remaining in regulation.
“We can play with anybody,” Pletz said. “It’s about the fine margins. We get lucky and win some. We get unlucky and loss some. It’s about sharpening up the little things, hoping they go your way. That allows you to be on the right end of those fine margins. That’s the way it is come playoff time.”