Sitting in a circle in the middle of the field at Pickerington North, Reynoldsburg High School boys soccer players listened as coach Justin Lewis reminded them they should have been celebrating based on the first 76 minutes of their recently completed game.
Instead, for the second week in a row, they would be in for a long bus ride home.
Reynoldsburg, which lost 3-2 at Gahanna on Sept. 11 and 2-1 at North on Sept. 18, entered its game Sept. 25 at Lancaster looking to snap a four-game losing streak.
The loss to North was part of a 2-7 start and marked the second game in a row that the Raiders gave up the winning goal during the closing minutes.
"It's been the story of our year," Lewis said. "We've had multiple opportunities to get our season turned around. Against Gahanna we gave up a late goal and blew it. We've just had breakdowns in a couple spots. We had a couple guys that very obviously showed laziness at times at the end (against North) and I'm just at a loss."
Reynoldsburg beat Westerville North 3-1 on Aug. 21 and Chillicothe 5-2 on Sept. 1 in non-league play, but it lost by 4-0 scores to both Grove City (Aug. 28) and Pickerington Central (Sept. 4).
Against Gahanna, the Raiders led 2-0 at halftime before Gahanna's Andrew Schwall scored a pair of goals to tie it.
Then, with 12 seconds remaining, Lions goalkeeper Christian Grimme kicked the ball downfield to Schwall, who knocked one past Raiders goalkeeper John Wallake with 2 seconds left for the game-winner.
Reynoldsburg's Alec Everts scored the first goal against Pickerington North with 30 minutes remaining, with an assist from Kasey Law.
Pickerington North tied it at 1 with 4 minutes left on a goal by Marion Pugh, and Tanner Ebright scored on a penalty kick with 1:16 remaining.
Senior Xander Sohalski (defender/midfielder) and Everts (midfielder/forward) have helped keep the Raiders together during their struggles, according to Lewis.
Reynoldsburg has played without senior defender Dino Seketa, who was injured in the preseason, and senior defender Matt Takacs, who suffered a concussion against Grove City. Takacs is expected to be back for a game Tuesday, Oct. 2, against visiting Newark.
"We're playing better, but we have to close games out," Lewis said. "Alec and Xander are guys who will run through a brick wall, and Kasey Law and Casey Pepper are guys who have been stepping up."