For a millisecond, Clay White thought his last career game was going to be an upset loss on Broadneck’s home field.
Before the reality of what that meant could take hold, the Bruins were granted new life.
Keegan Houser scored an improbable goal with two seconds remaining in regulation then fellow senior midfielder Vinny Facciponti put away the game-winner 1:13 into overtime as Broadneck escaped with a thrilling 12-11 victory over upset-minded South River on Monday night at Lawrence E. Knight Stadium.
Facciponti won the faceoff to start the extra session and White called timeout as soon as the Bruins stepped inside the restraining box.
Assistant coach Brandon Rowe drew up the play and it worked to perfection with Facciponti coming off a double pick, taking a pass from Houser and bouncing a shot past South River goalie Ben Robertson.
That goal gave the Bruins the Class 4A East Region Section II championship and set off a wild celebration with teammates mobbing Facciponti, who finished with a game-high five goals. Broadneck (13-3) advances to face Section I champ Severna Park (16-1).
“Honestly, it was a huge team effort. It was everyone refusing to give up. We could have packed it in when we lost the ball behind the goal with 15 seconds left, but we rode our butts off and got the ball back and Keegan stuck it to give us a second life,” Facciponti said.
“Going into overtime, all I could think about was doing it for the seniors and doing it for Coach White. I had to find a way to come up with that last faceoff to give us a chance to win it,” added Facciponti, a dominant faceoff specialist who also plays offensive midfield.
Facciponti said Broadneck has worked repeatedly in practice on the play that produced the winning goal, but had never tried it in a game. Senior midfielder Parker Griffey got the ball off the restart and quickly dished to Houser, who drove left then passed to Facciponti, who came open after rubbing his defender off the two-man pick.
“That overtime goal was all Coach Rowe. He set up that play and it could not have worked more perfectly,” White said. “You could not have written a better storybook ending than what happened in overtime. They did exactly what Coach Rowe told them to do and it was beautiful to see.”
Houser finished with two goals and two assists for Broadneck, which led 8-3 at the 10:50 mark of the third period. Junior attackman Brendan Kennedy added a goal and two assists for the Bruins, who beat the Seahawks 17-10 during the regular season and seemed well on their way to another lopsided result.
Senior midfielder Grant Sauls along with senior attackmen Nick Kendall and Eric Thibodeau sparked an impressive comeback for South River (9-6), which outscored the home team 8-2 beginning with 9:17 left in the third quarter. Sauls scored two goals and dished off three assists while Kendall and Thibodeau both had hat tricks.
Broadneck penalties helped fuel the comeback for South River, which scored three straight goals off extra man opportunities in the fourth stanza. Last of the extra man goals came when sophomore attackman Lala Titow (goal, two assists) found Thibodeau cutting to the crease for a point-blank shot that tied the score 10-10 with 4:19 to go.
“Penalties really hurt us, which was very frustrating. When we gave them extra man opportunities they cashed in,” White said.
Sauls then used a nice stutter step and go move to get free out front for a sidearm crank shot that gave the visitors an 11-10 lead with 2:41 left. It seemed South River would salt the game away after Kennedy hit the pipe on a shot and possession changed.
However, a South River attackman inexplicably rolled the ball out of bounds instead of just continuing to run out the clock and Broadneck got one more chance.
After calling timeout to set up a clear, the Bruins brought the ball into the offensive zone and went to work, but did not even get off a shot. Kennedy fell behind the net and had the ball checked loose by South River defenseman Aaron Stecklow.
Stecklow scooped the grounder and was quickly descended upon by two Broadneck players. Stecklow backpedaled to get space for a long clearing pass, but lost his footing on the wet turf just as he tried to throw.
Kennedy, the attackman who had initially lost the ball, raised his stick high and was able to deflect the ball after it came out of Stecklow’s stick. The bizarre sequence ended with the ball falling right into the pocket of Houser, who was standing on the crease and easily fired the ball into the top corner of the cage.
“It did take a miracle because we figured it was over. Our kids rode the heck out of the ball, but we still needed the ball to bounce our way in that situation just to get an opportunity,” White said.
Roberts was outstanding between the pipes for South River, finishing with 11 saves. Broadneck goalie Ben McGrady stopped eight shots and was credited with an assist after his Hail Mary clearing pass landed in the stick of Kennedy, who forced his way to the goal and scored from the doorstep.
“Give South River a lot of credit. They competed really hard and have a lot to be proud of,” White said. “I thought Robertson played a great game in the goal for them.”
Several South River players started yelling “Just like football” during the fourth quarter charge when the home team was reeling on the ropes. That was in reference to the fact the Seahawks shocked the Bruins in Class 4A East Region semifinals after having been blown out during the regular season meeting, but proved premature.
“You play this game a thousand more times and we win at the end. That was a fluke turnover that led to the tying goal. It’s unfortunate to see our season come to an end that way,” South River head coach Colin Campbell said.
“I’m very proud of my guys. I thought over the last few weeks the light went on and they really had the right attitude. That showed toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs,” Campbell said.
Now Broadneck will try to win one more game to send White to the state semifinals in his final season at the helm. The legendary head coach announced prior to this season he would be retiring after 33 years on the Broadneck sideline.
“That would be pretty magical. Absolutely it would be,” White said of upsetting Severna Park and advancing to the state semis one last time.