On the one hand, the Chittenango boys soccer team does not have to worry about Christian Brothers Academy as a long-term threat, since the Brothers will be up in the Class AA bracket when the Section III playoffs roll around.
Still, the Bears would have delighted itself to beat CBA Wednesday night in the season's only meeting between the current OHSL Freedom division leaders.
And despite playing a lot of defense, Chittenango was close most of the way before taking a 4-2 loss to the Brothers.
From the time the game kicked off, the Bears' back line found itself hard at work, trying to keep track of a steady parade of CBA forwards. For the most part, they prevented close-up shots -- but the longer ones proved to be a nuisance.
Sars Bowman put the Brothers in front 9:20 into the game by blasting a 25-yard shot into the net. Eight minutes later, Bowman struck again in much the same manner, a hard shot from the left point that Chittenango goalie Zach Boswell had no chance of stopping.
Down 2-0, the Bears briefly cut the margin in half when, less than a minute after Bowman's second goal, Luca Bottoni broke free and hit his own right-footed rocket past CBA goalie David Anderson. But the Brothers provided its own answer when Emmanuel Collins converted -- in all, three goals in a span of three minutes.
It remained 3-1 until the 52nd minute. Steadily building its attack, Chittenango pulled back within one when Josh Kimber flung a low shot through traffic inside the left post. Mike Koegel got credit for the assist.
Despite several runs, though, the Bears could not pull even, and Bowman returned to convert on a low shot from the left side with 4:25 to play, finishing off his own hat trick.
Two days before confronting CBA, the Bears warmed up with a productive trip to Mexico that resulted in a 4-1 victory over the Tigers.
Chittenango wasted little time asserting its will on Mexico, bolting to a 3-0 halftime edge, then conserving some energy for the bigger game that lay ahead.
Four different players --Bottoni, Kimber, Corey Rivet and Luke Greiner -- put in the Bears' goals, with Bottoni adding an assist.
The Bears (6-2-1, 4-1 league) are home this week for games Tuesday against Fowler and Thursday against East Syracuse-Minoa.