When Lakeland and Westview met Saturday afternoon in Emma to crown the NECC boys soccer tournament champion, it figured to be another hard-fought, defensive battle that would go right down to the wire, and maybe beyond.
The Lakers and Warriors didn’t disappoint.
Scoreless at the end of regulation time and after two, seven-minute overtime periods, the county rivals had to use a shootout to determine the victor. The Lakers prevailed in the penalty-kick tie breaker, 5-4 to claim the match and the tourney title.
“Winning this one is just as nice,” said Lakeland head coach Jesse Ward, referring to the sectional championship the Lakers won on the same pitch a year ago. “We are so young. When we met (Westview) earlier this year, they controlled the second half and beat us, 1-0. Today, we played them tougher.”
Both squads had several good chances to score in regulation and extra time. However, netminders Luis Gutierrez (Lakeland) and Tarrin Beachy (Westview) each made fine saves to keep the scoreboard clean.
In the penalty kick phase, Dustin Cunningham and Carlos Albor connected on the first two shots for Lakeland, while Austin Borg and Jacob Berkey scored for Westview. Nick Byler then gave the Lakers a 3-2 edge when he beat Beachy to the upper left-hand corner of the net.
The third shooter for the Warriors was Parker Fought. But his try was knocked away by Gutierrez, keeping Lakeland ahead by one.
“Luis is so quick and light on his feet. I wouldn’t trade him for any goalie in the NECC,” said Ward.
Hernan Duran of Lakeland and Bucky Carpenter of Westview both found the net with their shots, leaving the championship on the foot of Laker Sammy Garcia. The sophomore’s shot was true, setting off a wild celebration by he and his teammates near midfield.
Gutierrez finished the match with seven saves. Beachy wound up with four.
Lakelandhammered Central Noble (8-0) and Westview upended West Noble (3-2) in Friday’s semifinal matches.
Byler tallied four of the Laker goals and had an assist. Garcia scored twice, while Cunningham and Alfredo Nieves had one goal apiece. Cunningham also collected two assists, with Garcia, Eric Carmona and Marco Olivares each garnered one.
Westview built a 2-1 halftime lead on West Noble on goals by Austin Borg and Micah Hunsberger. Uriel Macias, who scored the Charger goal in the first half, notched the equalizer in the second half to send the match to overtime.
Following two scoreless extra frames, the match came down to a shootout. The Warriors won the penalty-kick decider, 5-4.
Beachy registered four saves, including the decisive one in the penalty kicks.
The Lakers began their title trek Thursday by escaping an upset bid by Prairie Heights, 1-0. Garcia tallied the winning marker with 46 seconds gone in the second overtime period.
Kyle Burkholder was brilliant in goal for the Panthers, stopping 14 shots. Gutierrez made two saves.
The Warriors cruised by Hamilton, 9-0 in their tourney opener Thursday. Borg, Fought, Carpenter, Jarret Slabach, Nic Raber, Zac Carmack, Lucas Hunter, Kurt Paulsen and Daom Hershberger all scored goals. Carpenter led in assists with a couple, while Fought, Borg, Carmack, Nate Raber, Lindon McDonald, Damon Miller and Kade Miller all had one.