FLEMING ISLAND - Two buzzer beater soccer games had two different reactions on the pitch as the Lakeside Junior High girls team and the Green Cove Springs Junior High boys team both finished off …
FLEMING ISLAND - Two buzzer beater soccer games had two different reactions on the pitch as the Lakeside Junior High girls team and the Green Cove Springs Junior High boys team both finished off strong seasons with a championship trophy that was not determined until the final 10 seconds of the Northeast Florida Athletic Conference (NEFAC) championship games held Thursday at the Clay County Soccer Club fields in Eagle Harbor.
In the girls game, with Lake Asbury first year coach Amanda Connelly taking on the Lakeside Junior High girls under coach David Sexton, the chance to supplant the reign of Green Cove Springs’ stranglehold on the championship trophy would be a game that would put both coaches on the edge of their competitive seats.
“That was about as good a game as I’ve ever been a part of,” said Sexton. “The girls kept believing.”
After Lake Asbury struck first behind two goals from 17, one a misplayed dribbler past Lakeside goalie Tori Hoffman, Connelly looked to be upset-minded in her first season as head coach. 17 would finish with three goals on the night.
“Former coach Wilson (Jeannie Wilson) stepped aside and I got the chance to coach and I wanted to build off of what she had started,” said Connelly, a former high school player out of Baltimore, MD. “Jeannie and Green Cove had a long history.”
Up 2-0 with momentum seeming to brim from the Lake Asbury bench, Lakeside finally got on the scoreboard with Caitlyn Jackson sneaking inside the Lake Asbury defense and tapping a goal in with 4:22 left in the half. Jackson’s goal was just a minute after 17s second goal.
17 and teammate 20 kept pressing the Lakeside defense with breakaway sprints downfield, but Hoffman kept her calm and deflected three shots.
After one save, Lakeside speedster Rylynn Robinson broke down the left sideline on her own with the Lake Asbury defense a step off the pace. Robinson bent into the box in front of the Lake Asbury goal and planted the tying goal with 11:22 left in the game and created new momentum for the Lady Gators.
Lake Asbury responded with 20 splitting two Lakeside defenders for a one-on-one match with Lakeside goalie.
Hoffman rejected 20s advance and Jenna Moreland answered with a rocket launch free kick from about 45 yards away due right of the goal bent into the upper left net to put Lakeside up with 4:54 to go.
Not to be outdone, 17 found herself just off the left side goal post in front of Hoffman, and snuck a tying goal in with just a minute left on the clock.
With both teams pushing their final paces to end the contest, Lakeside set up for a corner kick with just 11 seconds on the clock and most fans anticipating more blankets for the brisk night as overtime seemed imminent.
Except that the corner kick flew over the Lake Asbury goal and seemingly out of play. Moreland was sitting outside the box, captured the ball and delivered the shot into the net as the final buzzer sounded giving Lakeside the trophy.
“That was one of those things you practice everyday in practice just for this moment,” said Sexton.
In the boys game, Green Cove Springs got the first goal with Gennaro Nacca breaking for a solo shot just before the first half water break and the shot held to the very end until a fast and surprising finish.
With Oakleaf attempting to flood the goalie box with players, a crowded scrum ensued with the final ticks of the clock putting pressure on the Green Cove defense that kept reflecting Oakleaf shot attempts before officials whistled for an indirect free kick at the top of the 18 yard box with just seconds left in the game.
In the flurry, Oakleaf forward Cole Perez placed the ball and fired into the Green Cove Spring net to ignite a celebratory return to the center of the field.
Unfortunately, the kick was called indirect. No goal.
“It’s tough to end the game that way, but we lost last year in the final moments,” said Green Cove Springs coach Tony Bartel, who got his first team title. “They played tough all the way to the end and made us play our best game. We both had chances to change the score after the first one, but both defenses made plays.”