Coming off their huge win over Mississinewa the evening before, Eastbrook was back on the pitch on Tuesday evening, facing off against an always formidable Fort Wayne Canterbury squad.
However, following their emotionally charged performance against a longtime county rival, fatigue was evident, and their energy level – off the charts 24 hours earlier – proved to be lackluster against a quality opponent.
Despite a valiant effort at all levels of the pitch, the Panthers suffered just their second loss of the season, falling to the Cavaliers, 3-0, in their regular season finale.
Tuesday’s contest – a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Oak Hill Golden Eagles – was the first time the Panthers lost, or were shut out, since August 25.
“We just had guys who were tired,” Eastbrook Head Coach Adam Hallis said. “That’s a big game last night. That was a tough Mississinewa team, and it was emotional. [Tonight was a bit] of a letdown.”
Of all the teams on Eastbrook’s schedule, Fort Wayne Canterbury may have been the most technically sound team. Fort Wayne is a soccer hotbed in the state of Indiana, and the Cavaliers were proof of that. They moved the ball efficiently and effectively up and down the pitch with crisp, foot-to-foot passes, keeping consistent pressure on Eastbrook’s defensive back line.
“They had touch across the board,” Eastbrook Head Coach Adam Hallis said. “They move well. They deserved three and they got their three. They are a sound team.”
Over the first 30 minutes of play, while the Cavaliers dominated the majority of the possession, the play was fairly even. The Panthers created their fair share of opportunities but were unable to find twine.
Finally, in the final 12 minutes of the first half, the Cavaliers’ offensive pressure paid off. With 11:56 to play, Donovan Doolittle fired a perfect cross to a streaking Yahya Jan, who headed it in to give Canterbury a 1-0 lead – one they would not relinquish.
“We sagged a little in the midfield, so when we won the ball, there was nobody to play to, where last night, we had that control and were able to play the ball around,” Hallis said. “Against a good team, that’s what happens.”
Eastbrook looked to head into halftime only down one, but disaster struck in the final seconds, as a defensive miscommunication led to Canterbury’s second goal off a free kick as time expired.
The Cavaliers put the finishing touches on their shutout early in the second half, scoring their third and final goal off a corner kick.
Eastbrook was able to collect a few more scoring chances in the final 45 minutes but ultimately were unable to find twine.
Canterbury outshot the Panthers 14-4, including eight shots on frame.
Despite the loss, Eastbrook goalkeeper Tytus Anthony continued his sound play, making six saves against an unrelenting Canterbury attack. Since becoming the No. 1 goalkeeper, Anthony has been a major part of the Panthers’ success this year, elevating Eastbrook to one of the top teams in Grant County all season.
“He’s done well for us,” Hallis said of Anthony. “I am glad that we were able to get him to play those minutes this year.”
The Panthers finished the season with a 13-2-1 record, and they will begin sectional play against Yorktown on Monday at 6:00 pm.
“We have to keep our heads up, that’s the big thing,” Hallis said. “We have to go and get rest, and just be ready for Monday. To look at this season and what it’s been, and to have this record, I think it’s a big thing for these guys. We just have to keep our head up and go.”