DELTA — Liberty Center played its best half in weeks with a chance to play spoiler to unbeaten Delta Tuesday night.
The Tigers scored a first half-goal and held a halftime lead in a game that the Panthers needed to win to secure their first ever boys soccer Northwest Ohio Athletic League title.
But Delta overwhelmed LC with its pressure in the final third, eventually netting four second-half goals to score a 4-2 win over the Tigers at Panther Stadium.
“I knew they were a tough team, I’ve scouted them a couple times. Every game I watched they were getting beat and came back,” Liberty Center coach Andrew Storer said. “... I was hoping we’d get one more before they got one.”
Liberty Center, which has lost 10 straight games, fell to 3-12 overall and finishes 1-5 in the NWOAL. Delta earned the outright league title, improving to 13-0-2 and 5-0-1.
Isaiah Estelle, the Tigers’ senior captain and most dangerous forward, put LC in unfamiliar territory near the midpoint of the first half.
LC entered Tuesday on a nine-game losing streak, which included eight scoreless matches. But Estelle got deep into Delta territory on a quick counterattack, corralled a pass and moved into the box before launching a shot that curved into the front left corner of the net.
The Tigers, who adjusted their formation to a 4-1-4-1 to specifically counter Delta’s four forwards, led unbeaten Delta, 1-0.
“It’s something to build on,” Storer said.
LC opens its state tournament Wednesday at Delta.
But a Delta offense capable of scoring goals in bunches, which the Tigers fought off for 40 minutes, found a rhythm in the second half.
After tough saves, deflections and a ricochet off the bar kept the Panthers scoreless in the first half, Delta needed just three minutes to even the match. Nolan Risner, the Panthers’ senior captain forward, netted a goal into the far right corner.
Delta’s pressure was constant, as LC moved the ball across midfield just twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Max York slipped a goal into the middle of the net with 23:20 to play to give Delta it’s first lead and Carson Chiesa scored six minutes later. Shane Kruger pushed the Panthers ahead 4-1 with a goal into the left side of the net after a quick counter along the right sideline.
“The last couple goals when we moved Cole (Roth) up, we tried to get another goal. He’s a rock back there, I think he’s probably one of the best centerbacks in the league. Him and Cody (McDougle) back there, they’re solid,” Storer said.
“I think a couple of their goals are easily fixable things for us to take care of. I think we’ll come back and play them well next Wednesday.”
Jake Spieth added a late goal in the 74th minute for the Tigers, who missed a possible third goal in the closing seconds when a lead pass through the middle of the box skipped past the foot of a charging player.
Liberty Center hosts Lima Central Catholic at 1 p.m. Saturday to finish its regular season before Wednesday’s tournament opener.