COLUMBIA CITY – For the third straight year, Homestead's boys soccer team has claimed a sectional title.
Homestead's Carson Tanner got the scoring started with a shot from well outside the goal box, Teammate Noah Smith tied the game at 2 on a second-chance shot with 6:21 to go in regulation, and Riley George scored the go-ahead goal on an overtime penalty kick to give the Spartans a 3-2 victory over South Side on Saturday.
And no one was more relieved by it than senior goalkeeper August Vanden Top.
The team had watched the Archers (9-3) beat Columbia City on penalty kicks in the sectional semifinals, and Vanden Top said he came away more concerned by the Archers' talent than some of his teammates. After Tanner's goal gave the Spartans (9-6-2) a 1-0 lead, Vanden Top was faced with a goalkeeper's nightmare.
“I held the ball too long. I had a mental block, I guess, and didn't know where to play it quickly,” Vanden Top said.
Instead of passing the ball to a member of his team, he punted it to South Side junior forward Ko Dan, who put it straight back into the net to tie the game at 1.
“I was the reason we were down, and I had to count on my team to pay for my mistake and bring us back up,” he said.
But no one could blame Vanden Top for the Archers' second goal, scored nine minutes into the second half. Sarkey Htoo was pulled down as he raced down the sideline, and the Archers were awarded a free kick. Nicholas Lopez took the direct kick from close to the sideline, and it curved all the way into the top right corner of the goal. Vanden Top had no chance of reaching it despite diving to his left.
But the Spartans weren't done. Still trailing 2-1 with about 61/2minutes to play, Luke Sheppard took one touch to settle the ball and then took a laser of a shot at the goal. South Side keeper Hyder Carranza tipped the ball to keep it from going into the net, but that sent the ball back into play. Tanner settled the ball, and then Noah Smith tapped it into the net past Carranza.
The Spartans were awarded a penalty, and George put them up 3-2 just over two minutes into overtime, but the drama wasn't done.
With 2:45 left, the Archers were awarded another free kick close to the spot of Lopez's shot. This time, a defender blocked the first shot, but an Archer was able to take another shot from a similar angle. Vander Top leapt, got a finger on it to prevent the goal, and cast the ball to his left, and a defender cleared it.
When the clock hit zero moments later, Vander Top said it felt “like an anvil came off my chest.”
Homestead coach Ryan Cassedy said it was a night of second chances.
“Our goalie made a mistake in the first half that cost us a goal, but then the second half he winds up making a great save in overtime, tips the ball up and over the top, recovers from that mistake,” Cassedy said. “It's a good life lesson. You don't hang your head when you make a mistake, you get back in it and fight.”