It was no coincidence that the Archbishop Curley soccer team turned its season around when junior forward Tre Pulliam started scoring big goals.
His latest one kept the Friars' season going.
In Monday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference quarterfinal at St. Paul's, Pulliam got behnd the No. 6 Crusaders defense in the second overtime and blasted a shot from 14 yards with 6:20 to play to give the No. 4 Friars a thrilling 3-2 win.
Curley, which started the season 1-6 and went on to earn the sixth and final seed in the playoffs, improved to 11-11 with the victory and will now visit No. 2 Loyola Blakefield in the semifinals on Thursday.
St. Paul's, which came in as the third seed, finished its season with a 11-5-2 record. The Crusaders played the game without All-Metro senior forward Nate Hall, who was suspended after receiving a red card in the team's last regular-season game against Mount St. Joseph.
After St. Paul's rallied from a two-goal deficit to take the momentum away in the second half, Pulliam proved to be the difference with his second goal of the game.
"It was scary. We got kind of hesitant because this was the first time some of our guys were playing in a big game like this on varsity," Pulliam said. "[St. Paul's] played hard and got the ball in the back of the net, but we knew we wanted it more."
Pulliam gave the Friars a 1-0 halftime lead in the 18th minute when he finished from 12 yards after an alert header by Luis Turbyfield got him behind the defense. The Friars made it 2-0 in the opening minute of the second half when Dylan Holy tapped in Nick Richardson's shot that hit off the post.
The Crusaders found themselves down two goals without their top scoring threat, Hall, but they weren't deterred.
Seniors Morgan Lussi and Juwan Kearson took over the second half with relentless pushes forward. They connected twice — Lussi scoring both goals off of Kearson's assists — with the tying score coming with 12:33 to play.
After both teams had scoring chances in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime, it was Pulliam who ran on to a ball sent over the top by Kevin Villeda to give the Friars the victory.
"We expect him to make those plays," Curley coach Barry Stitz said about Pulliam. "He's capable of doing it, he's our captain, and he made one more today."
For St. Paul's, which reached the championship game last season, it was a difficult way to end the season. It was particularly tough playing without Hall, the team's leader who got the red card early in the first half Friday for a hard tackle.
"Not being there was killing him — hurt him more than his teammates," said St. Paul's coach Majid Mirza, who was quick to credit Pulliam.
He added: "Tre has tremendous speed, and we couldn't catch up with him. But I can't take away from our kids — they played with a lot of heart. Two years in a row, we had 10 wins going from the B [Conference] to the A, and that's a tremendous accomplishment."