Raw video of the final penalty kick that River Hill goalie Tomas Potts saved to clinch a playoff victory over Reservoir on Thursday night (Courtesy of Michael Potts)
River Hill goalie Tomas Potts says he wasn’t worried.
In fact, as he stepped between the pipes to face Reservoir’s sixth shooter in penalty kicks on Thursday in the 3A East region semifinals, Potts mindset was that he was due to make a stop.
“You know this was actually the first game in PKs where I haven’t felt extremely nervous,” said Potts, who was the hero twice last year during playoffs when he helped the Hawks prevail in penalty kicks against Reservoir and Mt. Hebron.
“There just wasn’t that feeling like I thought at any point we were going to lose this game. So even though (Reservoir) had made their first five kicks, I knew it was just a matter of time before I made a save.”
Sure enough, diving to his right, Potts punched Taylor Salmans’ shot wide of the post and with it secured River Hill a 6-5 shootout victory and a spot in the region finals next Monday against Mt. Hebron — a 4-0 winner over Centennial in its semifinal game.
After the two teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtimes, Reservoir coach Josh Sullivan said he was heartbroken for his kids to fall short in penalty kicks for the second straight year.
“It’s one of those where you are kind of speechless at the end because it’s just a tough, tough way to lose,” Sullivan said. “That was a state championship caliber game between two juggernauts, so it's just unfortunate that this match-up had to happen so early in the playoffs. But you get into penalty kicks like that and someone’s going to lose … that’s just the way it is.”
On the other side, as his kids stormed the field and celebrated, River Hill coach Matt Shagogue exhaled and relished in the fact that his team is still alive and chasing a return trip to the state’s final four.
“I’m only 38, but after games like this I feel more like 48 … I’m getting a lot of gray hair because of games like this,” Shagogue said. “But, what are you going to do, that’s just exactly what you are going to get when these two teams play and I’m just happy we’re on this side of it.”
It was obvious from the get go that the game was going to be fairly even, as neither team managed to establish the upper hand during the first 40 minutes.
There were decent scoring chances, including a shot by River Hill’s Gianni Gupta with two minutes left in the opening half that glanced off the crossbar, but ultimately the score was still deadlocked at 0-0 heading to intermission.
The second half was much of the same, with both defenses locking things down and stymying each of the opposing attacks.
“To be honest with you I didn’t expect that kind of game at all,” Shagogue said. “I thought this was going to be one of those games were it was going to take two goals to beat them, but I thought my backline was exceptional.
While there were no goals, there was however a scary moment midway through the half when Reservoir’s Stephen Bork went down in front of his own net with an apparent neck injury. The game was halted for more than 20 minutes, as an ambulance was called to the scene and eventually took Bork to the hospital for treatment.
Sullivan said afterward that he was responsive and that the officials on the scene were erring on the side of caution.
Once things started up again, it was Reservoir that had the best chance in the closing minutes of regulation. Off a corner kick with 10 minutes left in the second half, Reservoir had a header that was headed into the right corner of the net when River Hill’s Gabe Quintero leapt in the air and headed the ball out of harms way.
In the first overtime, River Hill’s Mike Heitzmann had a free kick stopped by Reservoir goalie Andre Dachao (7 saves) leaping to his right. Later, in the closing seconds of double overtime, Mike Faderin had a quality chance on the left post skip just wide.
The near misses left the game to be decided by penalty kicks and both teams came out on fire.
Each team’s first five shooters made their shots. River Hill got conversions from Robert Dass, Heitzmann, Luke Turney, Jakob Kelly and Quintero, while Reservoir’s scores were by Quinton Simmons, William Schulden, Kyle Saunderson, Carvell Akuffo and David Harris.
“To go six deep like that, without any misses, that’s extremely rare for high school. In those kind of moments, to be putting it on frame like that, you just really saw both teams stepping up,” Sullivan said.
Going to the sixth shooters, it was sudden death and River Hill’s Chris Behrman kicked things off with a conversion to make it 6-5. That left the game in the hands of Potts, who made the game-clinching stop.
“It’s basically just confidence … I saw their guy coming up to the ball really slow and Shagogue always tells me that if they’re coming up slow that gives them more time to psych themselves out. So for some reason, I just kind of knew that was the one,” Potts said. “I read his hips pretty well and got my hands on it.”
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