Harvey vs. Canfield boys soccer: Red Raiders stun Cardinals, 2-1, for first boys soccer district title in school history

Oct. 28—A generation ago, soccer wasn't a figment in the Harvey or Painesville City imagination.

An idea turned tangible. Tangible turned to viability. Viability turned to contention.

And Oct. 28 in the Division II Northeast 1 District final against one of Ohio's premier D-II sides in Canfield at Berkshire, contention led to a place for which the Red Raiders have long yearned.

Harvey can cross off one of its most elusive objectives: A landmark first district championship in boys soccer, one day not even a figment, but now an example of what can be achieved for its proud, blue-collar and diverse community.

⚽️ Harvey senior midfielder & captain Mason Haffa — match ball in hand — discusses his side's 2-1 come-from-behind D2 district final win over Canfield at Berkshire

Helped bring an edge, workrate & quality to this side amid a breakthrough 80 for the Red Raiders en route to a

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023

Jason Cardenas' strike in the 76th minute, following a wondergoal from Byron Perez to level in the 70th, propelled the Red Raiders to a rally they will forever savor, 2-1 over the Cardinals.

Harvey (16-3) will take on Bay, a 2-1 winner over Akron SVSM, in a D-II regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Streetsboro.

⚽️Harvey accepts its district champion after a 2-1 D2 district final win over Canfield

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023

At the full-time whistle, senior midfielder Mason Haffa dropped to the pitch face-first in euphoria by his touchline. Perez dropped to his knees, embracing an incoming rush of teammates at midfield.

⚽️ FT: Harvey 2, Canfield 1

Red Raiders win their 1st district in boys soccer in school history

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023

Coach Natalie Sisler's side, with a spine forged in steel, navigated its way forward against Canfield (14-2-5), which came into the match on an 18-match unbeaten run.

Indeed, it was a breakthrough in Burton.

"It means everything," Sisler said. "You see it with the fan base that we were able to get out community-wise to these games. I feel like when I first started, I remember trying to get people to come out to away games, and it was tough at times. But I really think the community came together behind the boys. And obviously, it means a lot to us as a team, to Harvey as a program, but you see to the community as well.

"When I took over, that's what I was pushing for, to kind to build that up. I feel like it's been a long journey and taken a lot of time, but I feel like it's finally starting to pay off."

Much like that journey to this point, it did not come easily.

The Red Raiders generated eight shots on target in the opening 40, but did not have a strike to show for it locked in a nil-nil match past the hour park.

The Cardinals broke through for an account opener in the 64th. Ethan Mulichak served a pacey ball for fellow senior Andrew Battaglia. Battaglia took care of a slick finish wide for his 17th goal of 2023. It marked the first shot on target for either side in the second 40.

Harvey proved to be unfazed. But it needed magic from Perez to kick-start the comeback bid.

In the 70th, the standout senior midfielder, who helped will his side to this result with exemplary workrate throughout, got a touch well outside the box centrally in his offensive third.

Amid a match in which the Red Raiders tried their luck from distance a ton, Perez took another crack at it with his capable right foot, and it was a beauty — an upper-90 curler for his 27th goal of the fall to equalize, 1-1.

⚽️ Harvey equalizer through Byron Perez 70th min

1-1 match

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023

"I couldn't see anything — I just heard, 'Goal!' " Perez said with a smile, draped in the flag of his native Costa Rica. "And then I started running to celebrate. I couldn't see anything. I just couldn't believe it. I started running. I didn't know what to do."

"I don't have words for this moment. We're excited. We're proud. I think the team played so well to the last minute. So we just put in 100% effort, and we won."

Cardenas, with a wider look at the strike from his vantage point, sensed it was a mortal lock.

"I was behind him, and I saw him shoot it," Cardenas said. "I just knew it was going to be a goal. Byron is a beast. He scores everything."

In the 76th, Haffa's header was tipped out for a corner, setting the stage for the match-winner.

The service was well weighted. Haffa got a touch on it, and Cardenas, another senior, got the most important around the edge of the six for a sliding tapper and a 2-1 lead.

⚽️ Harvey 2-1

Jason Cardenas 76th min

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023

It was his third goal of the season and of his career, Harvey's 883rd as a side since 2008 — and due to the circumstance, undoubtedly the most important goal in program history.

"It felt amazing," Cardenas said. "I saw the cross come in and Mason Haffa get a header on it. It comes to me, and I slide it in and tapped it in. Always, we talk about it. Always follow the ball and just be ready. All the time.

"I think our mindset and especially our captains — one goal, our heads might have dropped a little. But our captains make sure we come back stronger with good mindsets."

Creation to culmination, the Red Raiders have yearned for this moment — and now, once and for all, it is theirs.

"I was like, 'Yeah, we made it!'" Perez said.

"Never give up. Always. Always. We can do it. With all the fans. We never gave up, with 100% effort, and we still played until the last minute."


Harvey 2, Canfield 1

⚽️ Postmatch analysis of Harvey's 2-1 D2 district final win over Canfield

(match story will be shared shortly)

— Chris Lillstrung (@CLillstrungNH) October 28, 2023