Boyd-Buchanan thought it had won its Region 3-A/AA boys' soccer semifinal at the end of regulation Tuesday at Camp Jordan.
Instead, it took a round of penalty kicks for the District 5 runner-up Bucs to defeat 6-A/AA champion East Ridge.
After a scoreless regulation, Boyd-Buchanan got on the board about seven minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period, but East Ridge equalized in dramatic fashion with just seconds remaining in the second OT. The 1-1 match advanced to a shootout after two scoreless golden goal periods, and one missed PK made the difference in the Bucs' 5-3 shootout advantage.
"First and foremost, we have to thank God for this win," Bucs coach Dustin Walker said. "Second of all, our guys just played through a lot. We had guys throwing up on the field, and cramping, and we're just really proud of them for the fight they showed."
Coach Jason Owens added, "We can't take anything away from East Ridge. Both teams were evenly matched. They played like men; we played like men, but we came out on the good end this time."
Both teams created their share of chances throughout regulation, but their keepers managed to keep the match scoreless through 80 minutes of play. But with about three minutes remaining in the first overtime, Boyd-Buchanan's Justus McMillan headed in a corner kick from Kenny Diaz to put his team ahead 1-0.
"It was just a battle from beginning to end," East Ridge coach Jeremy McIntyre said. "I knew Boyd-Buchanan was going to be a tough team. It was a great match. We really worked hard at defending their corners, and long throws, and free kicks, because they're so dangerous on those. We just concentrated on that, then sure enough, they get a goal in on a corner."
As time wound down in the second 10-minute extra period, East Ridge continued its attack, and the Pioneers' pressure paid off in the final seconds. John Mwamba fired off a rocket from about 25 yards out, and his shot hit the crossbar and came down inside the line for the tying goal.
"I pushed everybody up, and had everybody on the attack," McIntyre said. "We were pushing, and it was a beautiful shot from John. He kept fighting and kept us alive.
"Anytime you get to PKs, you have two great teams going at it. You want both teams to win. I'm very proud of my guys. This is very tough on my 12 seniors."
Neither team could manage to find the net during the two five-minute golden goal extra periods, although each had at least one dangerous opportunity to do so. Owens said the Bucs' effort in stopping the high-powered East Ridge offense was an important key to his team's win.
"If you look how well they've been doing at scoring, and how we're typically a defensive team, I think we really were able to shut down a lot of their game," he said. "They've got so many weapons on offense, but for the most part, our defense really stepped up and shut them down. And that was team wide, not just our back four. Team defense has been our number one thing all year, and everyone did what they were supposed to do."
At the end of golden goal, the teams then gathered at midfield for the penalty kick shootout, which began with both teams making their first two shots. After the Bucs connected on their third, the East Ridge kick went high, giving Boyd-Buchanan a 3-2 advantage.
Both kicks were good in the next round, so the Bucs' fifth attempt clinched the victory and the spot in Thursday's region final. The victory also avenged Boyd-Buchanan's loss to the Pioneers in last year's region semifinals.
"It just goes back and forth with us and them," Walker said. "They put us out last year. Last year we let them push us around and push us off the ball, but this year that wasn't going to happen. East Ridge played so hard, and it was just a good game."
The Pioneers end the season 11-6-1, while Boyd-Buchanan improves to 14-4-1. The Bucs will travel to face Arts & Sciences for the 3-A/AA title Thursday night in a rematch of last week's district final, won 1-0 by CSAS.
"We're just glad we're playing on Thursday," Owens said. "That's all we want to do. We probably wouldn't feel like our season was a success if we hadn't made it there."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)