That’s all that stood in the way of the host Creston Panthers winning their own soccer tournament for the first time Saturday afternoon.
In a battle of state-rated teams, Creston had controlled much of the action throughout the match, but hung on to a precarious 1-0 lead after breaking the scoreless tie with Oakland Riverside on a goal by Trevor Frain off a crossing assist by McClain Haines with 21:18 left in the second half.
Then, in the final minute of play against a desperate push to score by the Bulldogs, the Panther defense failed to clear the ball out of the 18-yard mark in a rare defensive breakdown. Tanner Ford took advantage of the whiff on the ball and quickly knocked in the tying goal with only 41.4 seconds remaining.
The overtime format is to go directly to a shootout of five penalty kicks for each team, with the match going to the team converting the most PKs against the opponent’s goalkeeper.
With several good strikers and an all-conference goalie in junior Alex Nielsen, Creston is normally in a good situation in a shootout. But, Riverside was up to the task Saturday.
Bulldog goalkeeper David Anderson stopped two of the Panther PKs, while his teammates scored four straight, giving the win to Riverside, 2-1.
The Bulldogs, ranked 14th in Class 1A, improved to 10-2 for the season, having shut out Centerville 2-0 in Saturday’s opener. Class 2A No. 11 Creston, which sailed past Clarinda Academy 14-0 in the first round Saturday, fell to 10-3 heading into Tuesday’s home match against Carroll Kuemper.
“We didn’t quit,” said Riverside coach John Thomas to his team afterward. “I told David (Anderson), give me one (stop), you give us a chance. Give me two, it’s guaranteed.”
Haines, Gavin Woods and Levi Eblen made their PK goals in the shootout. Anderson stopped attempts by Tayler Pettit and Ben Irr. After the last one was blocked, Riverside did not have to attempt its fifth kick, already owning four conversions.
As far as Creston coach Jesus Rodriguez was concerned, it shouldn’t have come down to a shootout. He cited several missed opportunities to score with the wind at the Panthers’ backs in the first half, and was more than a little frustrated with some official rulings — particularly the number of offsides calls and inconsistency in foul calls.
“This one hurts,” Rodriguez said softly. “It’s beyond frustrating. We outplayed another rated team. Despite everything going against us, we had it.
“It’s frustrating when the whole game you get called offsides, and we get pushed all the time, but then we push a little bit and they call it,” Rodriguez said. “Then, on the side there with Ben, the guy clearly picks him up to get to the ball, and no call.”
The last 20 seconds of regulation riled up Rodriguez more than anything. With the ball going out of bounds, Creston had a throw-in opportunity and Rodriguez wanted to sub in Conner Pals, the team’s leading scorer. But, Pals wasn’t waved in as time expired.
“We can sub somebody in when it’s our throw-in,” the Panther coach said. “We’re yelling and calling for sub, but he didn’t turn around to allow it. That tells me he’s not doing his job. I don’t know why they send someone like that for a big game, with two ranked teams.”
When it was over, Rodriguez tried to get his team moving forward mentally to the season’s final matches against Kuemper here Tuesday, and a strong Harlan team at home next Monday. That’s followed by what he hopes is a strong playoff run for the program’s first state tournament appearance.
“I told them, we were not putting it in during the first half when we had so many opportunities,” Rodriguez said. “It could have easily been a 5-0, 5-1 game, and no overtime shootout. We pretty much controlled the whole game. But, sometimes in poker, or in sports, sometimes the luck is not with us. We have to move on and keep playing good soccer.”
Pals scored five goals in the 14-0 opener, moving him within one of the season record of 23 goals by his brother, Seth, in 2010. However, in the process he surpassed Seth’s career record of 43 goals. With a season still remaining, Conner has 44 career goals.
For most of the championship match, the only goal was knocked in at close range by Frain after a long crossing kick from the left side by Haines.
“I think he actually took a shot, but it was a little wide,” Frain said. “I basically just had my arm out so the guy couldn’t get to it, and tapped it in.”
Nielsen had five saves against the Bulldogs in regulation, including two spectacular second-half stops in what appeared to be preserving a 1-0 shutout at the time.
It would have been the first title for Creston boys in the home tourney, which was girls-only in 2008 and 2009. The Panthers lost to Perry in the 2010 finals, and lost to Boone and Centerville in 2011. There was no tournament in 2012 after the tornado struck Panther Field, and last year’s event was cancelled because of inclement weather.
Creston 14, Clarinda Academy 0
Creston (14) — Goals: Conner Pals 5, Tayler Pettit 2, Trevor Frain 2, Gavin Leith 1, Gavin Woods 1, McClain Haines 1, Kyle Wynn 1, Skylar Cook 1. Shots (on goal) — 21 (14 on goal). Individual shots (on goal)— Pals 5 (5), Ben Irr 4 (2), Leith 2 (2), Frain 2 (2), Pettit 2 (2), Woods 1, S. Cook 1, Jake Miller 1, Tyler Helm 1, Wynn 1. Keeper saves — None.
Clarinda Academy (0).
Riverside 2, Creston 1 (OT)
Creston (1) — Trevor Frain (McClain Haines assist), 21:18 second half. Shootout: Haines (goal), Tayler Pettit, Gavin Woods (goal), Levi Eblen (goal), Ben Irr. Shots (on goal) — 11 (5 on goal). Individual shots (on goal)— Ben Irr 5 (2), Conner Pals 3 (1), Haines 2 (1), Gavin Woods 1 (1), Frain 2 (2). Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 5. Cards — Levi Eblen (Y).
Riverside (2) — Tanner Ford, :41 second half. Shootout: Tucker Bluml (goal), Brady Ruyn (goal), Michael Bertacini (goal), Malachi Dillon (goal), fifth shooter, no attempt. Shots (on goal) — 12 (6). Saves — David Andersen 10. Cards — None.