HARBORCREEK - Warren suffered a disappointing early District 10 Class AA playoff exit for the second consecutive year after falling to General McLane, 3-2, in a back-and-forth battle on Thursday night at Harbor Creek High School.
Playing through wind and rain, the Dragons came out strong, dominating possession throughout the opening 10 minutes.
Matt Sandberg had the first strong scoring chance just three minutes in, volleying a ball over the crossbar. A few minutes later, Quinn Boger hit a rocket that was saved by the Lancer goalie.
Times Observer photo by Jonathan McAfoos
Shoulder to shoulder
Matt Sandberg battles with a General McLane player during a District 10 playoff game on Thursday night at Harbor Creek High School. Sandberg was Warren’s leading scorer with 30 goals on the season, but the Dragons’ Region 2 championship season came to an end with a 3-2 semifinals loss.
General McLane finally got a chance 13 minutes in and took advantage, scoring on a shot that ricocheted off of Warren keeper Nate Sandberg's hands and in.
Matt Sandberg had a chance to tie on a breakaway shortly after falling behind, but fired just wide in an attempt to score his 31st goal of the season. On a second breakaway 10 minutes later, McLane's keeper made a nice save, and Liam Boger - while going for the rebound - slid on the rain-soaked turf into the goalpost. Boger was helped off the field and would not return.
With just over 12 minutes to play in the first half, Phil Hachula evened things up when he slid a shot past the outstretched arms of the Lancer goalkeeper and into the side of the net. Tristan Boger earned the assist.
McLane had a golden opportunity to retake the lead with just seconds left when they crossed to an unmarked man in front of goal, but the shot went high and the teams headed into the locker room tied at one.
Both teams had few chances early on in the second half. McLane ripped a shot off the goalpost two minutes in, but things settled down from there.
The Lancers found the back of the net again with 29 minutes remaining on a shot that Nate Sandberg couldn't hang on to in the rain.
Once again the Dragons found a way to answer back. With just under 15 minutes left to play, Quinn Boger fired a shot just over the fingertips of McLane's keeper, once again evening the score. Joseph Bell recorded the assist.
"It looked like things were going our way," Warren coach Tom Harrington said of the game-tying goal. "We were being more aggressive, and I moved Quinn up and it paid off."
Just when the game appeared destined for overtime, McLane scored a third goal with just under five minutes to play on a breakaway.
Warren pressured in the remaining minutes, but failed to tie the game for a third time.
The Dragons outshot the Lancers, 21-18.
"It's tough," said Harrington, whose Region 4 champion Dragons finish 14-5 after the semifinal. "It was a hard-fought game. We made a few mental mistakes and they capitalized. I think we're two evenly matched teams. Today, they were better. A couple of weeks ago, we were better."
Warren defeated General McLane, 4-2, on Oct. 13. McLane is now 12-6-2 after a 7-0 win over Conneaut on Wednesday.
For Warren, preparation for next season will start right away.
McLane will attempt to defend last year's D-10 title against HarborCreek at 2 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Erie.
"It's been a good season, but next season starts tomorrow," said Harrington. "These guys know playoff games are won in the offseason. Expectations will be high for next year, and we have a lot of quality guys coming back."