CARBONDALE — Trailing 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining, Carbondale scored two goals in a three minute span and eliminated Anna-Jonesboro/Cobden/Dongola, 2-1, to win their third straight title at the Carbondale 2A boys soccer regional at the Fralish Complex on Friday night.
“It rained most of the afternoon and stopped just as the game began, but the field was extremely wet, making passing almost impossible and footing questionable,” said Carbondale coach Jeff Hansen. “When you play in these conditions, it's grit and heart, and our kids definitely showed that.”
Carbondale (19-3-1) extended their unbeaten streak to 14 games and will advance to the Troy Triad Sectional to play Waterloo Gibault on Tuesday at 6:30.
With the score tied and less than seven minutes left, the Terriers forced their sixth corner kick of the second half with Kenny Prabhakar taking the kick from the left corner.
“I knew I had to kick a perfect corner,” Prabhakar said. “I was aiming it for James Baltz because he’s the tallest player on our team, and it curved perfectly toward him. We worked so hard for this in practice, and coach pushed us all season long. We dug, and we dug, and we dug, even through the worst moments. I think we deserved this win.”
Three seconds later, Baltz scored his third goal of the season to give the Terriers their first lead of the game with 6:29 remaining. The assist was the seventh for Prabhakar.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Baltz said. “It was a great corner, and it kind of just rolled in front of me. I saw the ball and saw the goal, so I just put my left foot out and it went into the back of the net. We’ve been training since the beginning of the season to not give up. We’ve worked so hard for this. This is a team effort.”
Carbondale dominated the first half, out-shooting the Wildcats 9-0, but junior goalkeeper Jacob Schaefer kept the Terriers out of the net. He made eight saves, including stopping a penalty kick with 3:06 remaining to keep the game scoreless at the half. The other shot was cleared by the defense.
“Our guys were frustrated at the half,” Hansen said. “Their keeper makes a great save on a penalty kick and a couple other big saves, and it started to feel like one of those nights. It’s like hockey. If you have a goalkeeper that’s going to stand on his head and make saves, you’ve got a problem. I told them at halftime not to panic ... just keep plugging away and the dam will break.”
Anna-Jonesboro (10-9-1) came out of the 10-minute intermission on fire, almost scoring at the 3:01 mark when Blake Pena, who scored three goals in the semifinal win over Centralia, nearly beat Terriers goalkeeper Braulio Ostos near the left post.
Five minutes and 16 seconds later, Nicholas Bussey got free along the left side behind the Terriers' right defender and beat Ostos for his second goal of the season, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead on just their second shot on goal.
“We came to play tonight, and they played their hearts out,” said Anna-Jonesboro coach Mark Boomer. “They left everything on the field just like I told them to.”
Carbondale tried to rally back, but James Oberg, who was stopped by Schaefer on the penalty kick in the first half, had a shot blocked by the defense. Three minutes later, he missed a good scoring chance to the right of the post.
With 24 minutes remaining, Schaefer stopped two more of the Terriers' shots. With 21 minutes left, Josh Payne just missed scoring at the left post off a corner kick, but Schaefer covered up.
“We’ve done a lot of conditioning – running three miles before practice – and I feel like tonight we never lost our legs on a wet, sloppy field because of that,” Hansen said.
With 9:03 remaining, the Terriers were awarded their second penalty kick when the Wildcats were called for another foul in the box in front of Schaefer.
This time, Payne took the kick. Just the like the first time in the first half, Schaefer made the save diving to his left, but the rebound got away and Payne scored his fifth goal of the season to tie the score.
“I wanted to take that shot, but I was really nervous,” Payne said. “Then when he stopped it, I said, 'Oh, shoot,' but I saw it bounce out and noticed no one going for it, so I was thinking, 'What an opportunity, so I’ll take it.' The ball had bounced about three feet from him, and it was hard for him to get up out of the mud, so it was right there just sitting for me and all I had to do was tap it in.”
Thirty-one seconds later, the Terriers forced another corner kick. Sajad Nasser was able to get off a shot that was headed for an open spot near the left post, but at the last second, Schaefer closed the gap and made the save.
The Wildcats had three chances to tie the game in the final six and a half minutes, but the Terriers' defense prevented them from getting a clear shot on Ostos.