This was a pinch-me-and-tell-me-it's-really-true comeback ending.
The fourth-seeded Atholton Raiders boys soccer team stunned top-seeded Gywnn Park of Prince George's County on Saturday night at Montgomery County's Quince Orchard High School in the state Class 2A semifinal by winning in an overtime shootout, 2-1. Atholton outscored Gywnn Park 8-6 during the shootout.
With 11 seconds left in regulation time and Atholton trailing, 1-0, Raider midfielder John Walter kicked a controversial and desperate knuckleball goal from 25 yards out that sent the game into overtime.
"I knew we only had seconds left so I just volleyed it," Walter said. It was the junior's second goal of the year.
"I thought it was over and we had lost," Atholton coach Reg Hahne said about the Raiders' first state semifinal game.
So did a lot of fans.
The Gywnn Park team, which had already begun celebrating on the sidelines, argued that time had run out because the scoreboard clock showed no time remaining when Walters shot. But the official time is kept on the field.
"The Fat Lady was singing her last bar, but this just goes to show that it's never over until its over," Atholton coach Reg Hahne said after his team won the thriller.
Junior fullback James Waddy hit the game-winner in the shootout, and immediately was mobbed by his teammates and fans. Raider rooters reacted as though it was the state final. Who can blame them after that ending?
Atholton's first state semifinal playoff victory required 80 minutes of regulation play, 20 minutes of sudden death overtime and then the shootout to decide the winner between Gwynn Park (12-2-1) and Atholton (11-3-1).
The win sends the Raiders to Saturday's noon state final against Fallston at Old Mill High School.
The Raiders' offense dominated all but the final 10 minutes of regulation play, and by then the defense was lulled into a false sense of security.
"Gywnn Park really pumped up its offense for that last 10 minutes," Hahne said. "They had made no difficult offensive threats throughout the game, and we felt so safe that we didn't expect the shot they scored on."
So when Gywnn Park's Kelvin Reaves settled a cross from Shawn Clink and then hit a chip shot in the 72nd minute from 15 yards out, Atholton goalie Kori Hunter was caught out a couple steps too far and couldn't get back in time.
"When they scored there were only about seven minutes left and I didn't think we'd get back," Hahne said. "It's a tribute to our players and their will to win."
Atholton's dominant offense took 15 shots on goal, and an incredible total of 17 corner kicks, for a grand total of 32 scoring opportunities.
"We knew we were in control, so we didn't really get frustrated until after they scored," Hahne said. "Then we got out of our short passing game and played desperate soccer. Maybe we should have gotten desperate sooner."
Atholton also dominated the two 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods.
In the second one, the Raiders missed three good scoring chances.
David Kelly missed a header high over the net off a Tony Dedmond throw-in in the 95th minute.
Dedmond, Atholton's leading scorer with 13 goals and 10 assists, banged a hard shot from inside the 18-yard line that sailed over the crossbar in the 96th minute.
And Nick Bostrom kicked a hard shot from inside the 10-yard line that flew over the crossbar in the 98th minute.
Atholton shot first in the shootout. Each team had to use only the 11 players it had on the field at the end of the game, and each player got to take a shot from 13 yards out with only a goalkeeper defending. The first team to compile an insurmountable lead based on 11 shots apiece was the winner.
In the end, Gywnn Park missed 4 of 10 shots and Atholton only 3 of 11.
Gywnn Park did not take its 11th shot since it could no longer tie.
During the shootout, Gwynn Park hit the crossbar twice, the post once and Hunter made one save. Atholton hit the post once and Gwynn Park goalie Mike Schilling made two saves.
Gwynn Park led after three shootout shots apiece, 3-2. The teams were tied after five shots apiece at 3-3.
Forward Todd Bradford, who played goalie during the second overtime, and goalie Hunter each scored as the first two shooters for Atholton. Then, Raider sweeper Greg O'Shea's shot was blocked to the goalie's left.
Gywnn Park went to Hunter's right on its first three successful shots.
Fullback Phil Lazzari scored on Atholton's fourth shot, and then Gywnn Park's fullback Joe Burton missed by hitting the crossbar.
Midfielder David Kelly put Atholton ahead 4-3 on the Raider's fifth shot by hitting the upper corner of the net to Schilling's right. Gwynn Park's Mark Wilson then missed by hitting the post keeping Atholton's lead, 4-3.
On its sixth shot, Atholton went up 5-3 when Dedmond converted to Schilling's left in the upper corner. But Gywnn Park's Jeff Stafford went to the right, trimming the lead to 5-4.