Wildcats advance to semis through shootout win
KAMAS Braxton Farmer wasn’t fazed.
As he took the loneliest walk of his soccer career to the north-side goal penalty spot at Wildcat Stadium, the junior midfielder didn’t let the hundreds of anxious eyes at his back distract him.
Farmer kept his cool and buried the fourth and final penalty kick in the Wildcats’ 2A quarterfinal win over Gunnison Saturday afternoon in Kamas enabling Wildcat Stadium to erupt as if South Summit had just scored a fourth-quarter touchdown. After playing 100 minutes of soccer and with the score tied 1-1, the match was decided by penalty kicks and South Summit advanced with a 4-2 advantage.
"It comes down to, if I miss it, we still get one more chance," Farmer joked afterward.
"Before I stepped up, I was just thinking, ‘I got this.’ What can (the goalie) do? He’s the one stuck on the line I get to move."
And how would he describe the sensation once the ball graced the twine at the back of the net?
"The nicest feeling ever," he said.
Sweeper Harrison Littledike, who was visibly gassed after defending for 100 minutes on easily the warmest Kamas day of 2011, couldn’t find the words.
"I don’t even know how to explain it," said a euphoric Littledike. "It was just a team coming together and pulling it out."
Head coach Chris Burton breathed a welcome sign of relief.
"I’ve got to hand it to Gunnison," he said. "They always play us tough. That first half, I thought we dominated them. Absolutely dominated them; played great soccer. But as the game went on, they just kept getting stronger and stronger. To be honest, I thought they played as well, if not better than us."
After missing a barrage of chances in the first half, the favored Wildcats began to feel the pressure of a potential upset. Every shot skipped to the Gunnison goalkeeper or barely squeaked over the crossbar.
Once senior midfielder Trevor Rydalch opened the scoring in the 67th minute, finishing a loose ball in the box and giving South Summit a 1-0 lead, Burton’s fears were realized less than two minutes later.
"I always tell them the two minutes after a goal is a scary moment," he said. "It’s something that we talked about all year long. Those two minutes, the team that scores tends to let up a bit. And it happened."
Gunnison equalized the score in the 69th minute, quickly deflating Wildcat Stadium.
After each team threatened without success, two 10-minute extra-time periods ensued. Tension grew and the reality of penalty kicks loomed large.
But Burton had his team prepared.
South Summit had practiced shootouts every day last week prior to Saturday’s match and goalkeeper CJ Metcalf stood tall in the most pressure-packed situation.
"He’s a first-year keeper," Burton said. "He’s never played keeper. We’re talking ever."
Metcalf’s moment came when Gunnison’s fourth shooter was stonewalled by the junior goalkeeper who guessed correctly, dove to his right and stopped the shot.
Wildcat players and coaching staff swarmed both Farmer and Metcalf once Farmer’s penalty kick curled into the near post, South Summit, now 13-2-1, is on to its second-straight 2A semifinal.
Awaiting South Summit is St. Joseph Catholic, which defeated Oakley School 2-0 Saturday in Ogden. The Wildcats and Jayhawks will meet at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Jordan High School.
"We’re just looking to the next step," Littledike said.
That next step is moving past the semis, a round in which the Wildcats were eliminated 3-2 in the second period of extra time against Waterford a year ago.
"I think that having a tough win like this might kick us in the butt a little bit and get us ready," Burton said. "We’re sick of losing in the semis."
And if South Summit can eradicate last year’s heartbreak Friday against St. Joseph, a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium and a spot in the 2A state final awaits.
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