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| 3 min. read | by: Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com |

The Chelsea Bulldog boys soccer team (9-6-4) had their season with a 2-1 loss to the Parma Western Panthers (17-3) in a division two district final on Oct. 17 at Western High School. 

With the Panthers ranked no. 12 in division two, the Bulldogs had their work cut out for them against a disciplined Panther side. The Bulldogs had fallen to the Panthers 3-2 at an early season tournament. 

“They have some really strong players in the middle of the field and they were much better tonight than they were then,” said Bulldog head coach Jordan Miller of the Panthers. “They’re a very talented program and play the game well.” 

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After two first half goals, the Panthers scored the difference maker early in the second half.

The Panther offense worked down the right flank throughout the night and Bulldog junior defender Aaron Zivsak was the most active defender on the night. He was up to the task, stopping run after run and making tackle after tackle. 

After a strong Panther start, the Bulldogs began to get possession after the first ten or so minutes. Utilizing their speed has been a key part of their offense all season and tonight was no different. 

Bulldog junior forward Jacob Schultz and senior forward Chris White were the targets out wide but the Panther defense did a good job throughout the game of minimizing service.

Just over 16 minutes into the game, the Panthers struck first on a set piece.  A corner kick was finished off by senior Caleb Griffith, who made a run down the middle of the box and made contact with his head to score the goal. 

Less than a minute later, however, the Bulldogs would respond. A ball in the box was played to White who fired a low shot towards the goal. The Panther keeper dove and made contact but the ball still made it through and the score was tied. 

Bulldog junior goalie Connor McKenzie had a diving save from a Panther shot outsize the 18-yard box with around 20 minutes left in the first half. 

The Bulldogs began to link passes together, they just couldn’t get a solid look in the final third. 

“In the center of the field we weren’t playing disciplined like we talked about,” said Miller. “They were doing a very good job of spacing the field out. We were winning individual tackles but were chasing the ball all over the place. When we start to calm down a bit we created a few more chances. It wasn’t our best night possessing or moving the ball.” 

McKenzie made near post save with 15-minute remaining in the opening half and both sides couldn’t put away a couple looks in the last ten minutes to make it 1-1 heading int other half 

In the second half, the Panthers came out strong early, dominating possession and forcing the Bulldogs to play defensive minded. 

“The intensity and discipline they brought, we had a hard time matching,” said Miller. “We had players playing with intensity but without the discipline piece we were chasing the ball all over the field. Against good teams like this you have to play good ball to be successful.” 

Ten minutes in, White had a throw from the sideline that reached sophomore midfielder Will Barhite. He made contact and redirected it onto goal, but unfortunately it was at the keeper. 

Then, the Panthers took the lead with 29:21 left. A ball played into the box was received by Trey Cottingham. He took a touch, turned, and shot low to the opposite corner for the goal and the 2-1 Panther lead. 

Building off of that momentum the Panthers continued to possess the ball. White was injured with 25 minutes to go and had to come out for a brief period before returning, 

With 24 minutes left, the Bulldogs had one of their best chances in the half. Barhite was able to cross a ball into the box to the far post. Junior Adam Bahri was there and made contact but it went just barely wide.

The other best look came with around three minutes left. Another cross from Barhite into the box was headed by White to a waiting Zach Chalogianis. He was able to get a shot off in the box but the Panther keeper made the save. 

“I’m incredibly proud of the boys,” said Miller. “Incredibly proud of everything they’ve done this season and wish the best of luck to Parma, they’re a fantastic team. We’ll be back next year.” 

“They’re an incredibly classy group,” added Miller on this team. “It’s very difficult to watch a team celebrate in front of you. We had to do it in the Dexter game and here tonight, both home fields. They have always played with class, always supported each other, been team first, a very easy group to coach because of that.

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