Overtime wasn’t going to be enough between the Smyrna Bulldogs and the Station Camp Bison soccer teams on Thursday night.
The high-octane Bulldog forwards getting a shot at the two-time defending state champs? Not a chance.
As the sun began to set behind the tree line surrounded the Smyrna High School soccer field, the tension began to rise in the second overtime of a 2-2 tie.
Station Camp’s Donovan Smith dribbled the ball down the right wing toward the Smyrna net. Noah Blackwell looked toward Smith and took off in a dead sprint toward the front of the net. Smith stopped his dribble and looked to his left. Smith lifted a pass over the heads of the Bulldog defense. Smyrna goalkeeper Travis Hagar turned and gasped at what he was looking at.
Three-fourths of the net was wide open as the ball began its decent toward Station Camp’s Blackwell. The junior’s eyes opened wide as he gazed at the open net. Exactly how open he was didn’t matter, as he rifled a shot that came out of the back of the net almost as quickly as it went in, erasing what was once a two-goal deficit and giving his team its only lead of the night.
Blackwell pumped his fists toward the sky as his teammates began to embrace him with excitement. The Station Camp second-half substitute’s goal was the deciding factor in a 3-2 double-overtime win over Smyrna to give Station Camp the Region 5AAA title.
“I didn’t even celebrate (Blackwell’s goal) because I was in so much shock,” said Station Camp Head coach Jeremy Cooke. “It was a hard ball across and I didn’t think (Blackwell) was going to get to it, but he put it in the back of the net. I was excited afterward, but the initial feeling was mostly shock.”
Blackwell’s goal likely wasn’t the only time Cooke was shocked, as his team was in a 2-0 hole with 34:47 left in the game.
Down a man for much of the afternoon, the Bulldog offense got off to a fast start in both the first and second halves to net themselves the two-goal advantage.
Smyrna’s first goal came from one of its most reliable players in midfielder in Kevin Avalos.
The sophomore scored his 18th goal of the season less than 10 minutes after the games opening kick. With the ball deep in the Smyrna zone, Smyrna’s Makaryous Kelini’s attempt to clear the ball ended up turning into a foot race in which Avalos won, making a nifty move to juke a pair of Bison defenders to net the game’s first goal.
The Bulldogs rode that momentum into the second half when they got an insurance goal from striker Kyaw Moe when he snuck one past Station Camp goalkeeper T.C. Craig to push the lead to two goals.
“We came out really strong,” said Smyrna coach Brian Grogan. “I honestly felt like we were pretty much the stronger team for most of the first half and even going into the second half. Unfortunately, being down a man (in the second half) is tough. But with their postseason experience and the weight that carries, I think the pressure is ultimately what got us.”
Cade Maclean’s late second-half goal is what ultimately saved it for Station Camp. Following a Riley Indermuehle goal that cut the Bulldog lead to one, the clock began to wind down quickly in the second half.
Blackwell looked to pass from the corner. Maclean, who also came off the bench in the second half, slipped behind the Smyrna defense. Amidst the chaos, Blackwell was able to find his teammate, who scored an emotional game-tying goal that wound up sending the game to overtime, where his teammate Blackwell, who assisted him on the play, would put the game on ice.
“Right now we’re going to celebrate (the win) and just keep moving forward,” Cooke said.