After making his second save of the shootout, Reservoir keeper Braulio Linares knew he had put his team in position to win. But the junior couldn’t bear to watch as teammate John Lopes stepped up to the line to take his penalty kick, so he stood with his back to the action.
Lopes calmly placed a laser shot into the top right corner of the goal as the Gators outscored Mt. Hebron, 6-5, in the shootout to earn the victory in a Class 3A East regional quarterfinals matchup on Wednesday evening at Hammond.
“I can never look at PKs,” Linares said. “I just don’t like it because it makes me too nervous. When I heard the ball hit the net (on Lopes' kick), I turned around.”
Lopes, who scored Reservoir’s lone goal of regulation, had a ton of pressure on his shoulders as he set up for what would be the game-clincher.
“Honestly, I was really scared. I was very nervous,” Lopes said. “I had faith in myself, and my teammates had faith in me, so I did the best I could. I didn’t know which way I was going to go; I just walked up there and picked a spot.”
The Gators (9-6-0) advance to the region semifinals and will face the region’s top-seed Centennial.
Senior forward Andrew Tucker opened the penalty kick session with a low shot inside the far post just past Linares.
After getting up, Linares walked to the side with his head down but there wasn’t much time to dwell on what just happened as he was selected to take the Gators’ first kick.
He rebounded with a successful kick, and then returned to his place between the pipes.
“I knew that I couldn’t miss,” Linares said. “I had to make it.”
Lucas Rose converted his attempt, as his shot deflected off Linares’ hands and into the net. Mt. Hebron took a 2-1 lead when Curtis Kosmowski’s offer bounced off the crossbar.
Emmanuel Wright and Luke Richardson traded successful kicks with the Gators’ Javier Wardcantrori and Kyle Saunderson, as the Vikings held onto a 4-3 advantage.
Linares made a diving, one-handed stop on Mount Hebron’s next shot, and added another later with the score tied at 5-5. It all came down to Lopes, who delivered.
“What a wonderful thing for John to get the first goal and the last goal,” Reservoir coach Reg Hahne said. “It was fantastic. The midfielders really stepped up today. We’ve been working on transitions in practice and it really paid dividends today.”
After a scoreless first half, Reservoir broke through in the 56th minute when Carvell Akuffo made a cross pass to Lopes, who fired a hard shot past Mt. Hebron keeper Nathan Buris (four saves).
The Gators held off the Vikings’ scoring attempts, and were poised to wrap the contest up in regulation before Wright made his best chance count with 3:02 remaining. The senior forward found a loose ball in front of the net, settled it between two defenders and finished to knot the score at 1-1.
“We didn’t give up and scored with a couple minutes left,” Mt. Hebron coach Michael Linsenmeyer said. “We had several chances but we didn’t put them away. We even played with a man-down for quite a while to fend them off. We just lost it in (penalty kicks).
“Penalties are a crazy way to end a game, but somebody has to advance and right now that’s Reservoir. That’s not good for us, but credit to them for moving on.”
(Reservoir wins 6-5 in PKs)
Mount Hebron (11-5-0) 0 1 0 0 - 1
Reservoir (9-6-0) 0 1 0 0 - 1
Goals: MH – Wright; R – Lopes.
Assists: R – Akuffo.
Saves: MH – Buris 4; R – Linares 6.
Shots: MH – 7; R – 9.
Corners: MH – 2; R – 4.