The Springfield Catholic Central High School senior had a chance to fulfill his dream in the Division III boys soccer state championship game on Friday before 1,841 fans at Crew Stadium in Columbus.
Canestraro’s goal 5:38 into the first 15-minute sudden death overtime period lifted the Irish to a dramatic 2-1 win over Gates Mills Hawken.
The Hawks controlled play for most of the game, but it was Canestraro who came up with the game’s decisive play.
Senior forward Stefan Latham helped set up the biggest goal this season in D-III as he maneuvered through three defenders and fed a pass to an open Canestraro on the right wing. Canestraro promptly booted a shot past keeper Andrew Weiner for the game-winning score.
“I told the players in overtime that any chance they got to shoot because it’s sudden death and Anthony took me to my word and buried one,” Catholic Central coach Shane Latham said. “It was a great finish, game’s over.”
“I just think about what if I had a goal this big,” Canestraro said. “It’s amazing to be here and have a goal like that.
“The seniors – it has to be the best feeling for all of us. I can’t describe it.”
The Irish (20-1-1) earned the program’s second state title, with the first also coming against Hawken in 2001, 3-2.
The Hawks close out the season at 18-2-2.
The teams traded goals in a 45-second span in the first half.
Jake McKay gave the Hawks their lone lead of the game when he worked a pretty give-and-go with Paul Burgess with 14:24 left in the half.
It didn’t take the Irish long to respond as Latham took advantage of a ball mishandled by Weiner to score the tying goal.
Latham closes out his banner season as the team’s leading scorer with 40 goals and 28 assists.
Hawken’s best scoring chance in the second half came midway through when Catholic Central goalie Kyle Coffey made a leaping save with McKay lurking at the doorstep.
Hawken’s other good scoring chance of the half came with nine minutes remaining when senior Matt Trau fired a shot just wide of the post.
Jacob Jaworski had Catholic Central’s final scoring chance of regulation, but his shot was deflected away by Hawken defender Greg Nelson.
Hawken continued to dominate possession, out-shooting the Irish 15-7. Each team managed four shots on goal.
Coffey made three saves and Weiner stopped two shots.
Catholic Central had a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks.
“In my words and in my head, the game is played on goals, so you need to score goals when you create opportunities,” Hawken coach Dani Giulvezan said.
“I thought we dominated the game. I thought we created more chances than them and we lost the game 2-1.”
The Irish reached the program’s third state title game following a 1-0 win against defending state champion Worthington Christian. Hawken earned a spot in the title game following a 3-2 win against Kidron Central Christian.
“I told the players in the locker room before the game that we had 46 practices this year, 27 games and here we are, it all comes down to this afternoon,” coach Latham said. “Go out and win the thing. They’ve done well all year, they’ve worked hard in all kinds of weather and everything else, and to come here and win today is awesome.”