After 100 tension-filled minutes without a goal — including two 10-minute overtime periods — the Creston boys soccer team outlasted Lewis Central, 3-2 in penalty kicks, to end a long, frigid night at Panther Field.
At 8:43 p.m., a full two hours and 20 minutes after the match began, Brant Hudson found the back of the net to break a 2-2 tie in PKs. A Lewis Central last-gasp attempt to stay tied was caught by goalkeeper Alex Nielsen, sending the Panther team into a midfield celebration.
The teams battled to a 0-0 deadlock through regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods. After 100 minutes of defensive-minded soccer, the outcome came down to penalty kicks.
Each team had five designated players for the PK round. At the end of that, there was still no winner as each team found the back of the net twice in five tries. Conner Pals and Kaleb Cook connected for the Panthers, matched by Jerry Orozco and Tyler Raygor. With Creston kicking first, Raygor had to get his shot past Nielsen to keep the Titans alive, and he got it through to the left side.
So, then it came down to the first team to have the advantage after successive turns. Hudson made his goal for Creston, and Nielsen blocked the attempt by LC’s Alexander Hillers to preserve the Panther victory.
It was a big win for Creston, now 4-3 overall and 1-0 in the Hawkeye 10. It was LC’s first loss in three conference matches, as the Titans fell to 4-2 overall.
Panther coach Jesus Rodriguez said it was a testament to perseverance, and his team’s depth. Frequent substituting kept his troops fresh enough to carry on. However, midfielder Levi Eblen battled through cramps through much of the second half and overtime periods.
“We had a lot of guys come in the game tonight,” Rodriguez said. “I said, whoever goes in, we have to have the same intensity. They are a good team, but I said we’re going to outhustle them. I’m glad we got the win. We’ve been working really hard, and it’s starting to pay off.”
The Panther defense was tested against the talented Titan squad that had outscored five opponents 12-3 coming into the match. LC had shut out conference foes Atlantic (4-0) and Glenwood (3-0).
A new formation designed by Rodriguez paid dividends, in front of a stellar performance by Nielsen in the net. Nielsen had 12 saves, many of the spectacular variety.
“We changed formations tonight,” Rodriguez said. “Normally we’re 4-4-2. But Levi (Eblen) is a great defensive midfielder, and we put him in our 4-1-4-1 between the defense and the center mids, patrolling to make sure number 9 wasn’t getting the ball as much.”
Aggressive play in the back was key.
“I told our defenders, you make yourselves be a presence,” Rodriguez said. “Make the forward think of you before they think of the ball. That was one of the key things we did today. And Nielsen, he had a great night. Especially that one where the guy was inside the six and he reached out and saved it.”
Creston was outshot by the talented Titans, but scrapped for some good breakouts with opportunities to score. One came with only 2:30 left in regulation, as Pals slipped a pass to midfielder Trevor Frain, who shot one-on-one against Titan goalkeeper Nathan Pettepier. The LC keeper was able to block the shot and send the match into overtime.
Pals finished with three total shots before the PK round, including two on goal. Forward McClain Haines also had a one-on-one breakaway going, but was tackled from behind. Rodriguez wasn’t happy with the no-call.
“We had two or three runouts, and that time Mac got brought down from behind, I thought it was a penalty for sure,” Rodriguez said. “But sometimes you have to let it go. I didn’t want to get another yellow card.”
Conditions were brutal. The temperature dipped under 40 degrees to 33 degrees by the time the PK round began, with northwest wind gusts to 20 mph. Earlier, gusts reached 36 mph.
“If you were going against that wind, it’s miserable,” Rodriguez said. “With it, you can score from anywhere. The second half was tough when they kept pushing with the wind. I said, it’s our house, let’s keep playing hard.”
Rodriguez told his team to enjoy the win Tuesday night, but to come back today ready to prepare for a good Glenwood team, despite the Rams’ recent loss to LC.
“Lewis Central beat them 3-0, but who knows?” he said. “We have to be ready to go hard again. Last year they beat us 9-2.”
The JV match is scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by varsity at 6:30. On the positive side for Panther fans, a much improved weather outlook is scheduled.
Creston 1, Lewis Central 0 (PK)
Creston (1) — Overtime PK round: Conner Pals goal; McClain Haines wide; Kaleb Cook goal; Levi Eblen blocked; Alex Nielsen blocked; Brant Hudson goal. Total shots — 7. Shots on goal — 2. Individual shots — Pals 3, Eblen 1, Haines 1, Aaron Shaw 1, Trevor Frain 1. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 12. Fouls — Not available. Cards — Pals (Y).
Lewis Central (0) — Overtime PK round: Miguel Ramos wide; Jerry Orozco goal; Ryan Nightser blocked; Tyler Raygor over crossbar; Alexander Hillers blocked. Shots on goal — Not available. Saves — Nathan Pettepier 2. Fouls — Not available. Cards — Ramos (Y), Hillers (Y).