St. Johns Spartans go into overtime to win region title

By Ray DiMonda Correspondent
Posted 3/3/21

NOTE: Due to press deadlines, Ray DiMonda’s story St. Johns thrilling overtime region championship win could not be squeezed into the Clay Today sports pages last week. This is his …

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St. Johns Spartans go into overtime to win region title


NOTE: Due to press deadlines, Ray DiMonda’s story St. Johns thrilling overtime region championship win could not be squeezed into the Clay Today sports pages last week. This is his recount.

ORANGE PARK - Going back to the first game of the season against the Maclay Marauders, the St. Johns Country Day Spartans succumbed to a first half single goal that they could not equal. On Fri., Feb. 23, St. Johns got a second shot at Tallahassee Maclay as the two paired off and held the crowd hostage on their edge of their seats to a highly physical, drama filled outcome.
“This is what high school soccer is all about,” said Spartan’s Head Coach Brad Schmidt.
The spectacle needed both overtime periods, and finally a last-shot-to-win penalty kick shoot out to finally earn the Spartans a two-two victory, the Regional Championship, and a berth to the State Championship final four. St. Johns won their state semifinal 4-0 over St. Edwards.
“It stinks to finish on PK’s (penalty kicks) because those hurt worse than anything else,” said Schmidt. “This rivalry goes back to when I played here. I know Andy (Maclay head Coach Andrew Warner) and we know what these games bring. I think the last five times we played, they’ve been one-goal games, with some going into overtime.”
The physicality was evident throughout the match as no less than four yellow cards were issued.
The intensity built slowly as the game was scoreless through the first half, with each team’s Keepers coming up with great saves. Most of the first half was played right at center field as neither team seemed to get the advantage. “We are more possession-oriented team, but we had to get out of our realm of how we normally play to compete with them just because how physical and athletic they are,” said Schmidt.
At 36:40 of the second half, a Maclay corner kick settled in front of the St. Johns goal, bounced off several players heads, and ended with a kick to Carter Pickett’s away side on his left. Even with a Superman leap, he just didn’t have the reaction to the point-blank shot, 1-0 Maclay.
St. Johns had several attempts by Luke Graston that were broken up by the Maclay Keeper, but the quality shots were coming once the attack could form. With 5:19 remaining, the Spartans finally caught a break as a penalty kick was awarded to them after a penalty call in front of the Marauder goal.
Dru Detefsen picked a corner, looked right and shot a bullet left, opposite side, to tie the game 1-1.
With expiration of regulation time, it was on to two, 10 minute overtime periods. Just as before, the first period went by with no change in score, but the body contact was ramping up. With 2:04 left, Seth Mourhourtis looked to his left to see he and Jacob Graston were two-on-one with the Maclay Keeper. Mourhourtis drilled the ball toward the goal where Graston was, tipping it behind the Keeper to get the Spartans out front, 2-1.

All the Spartans had to do was play prevent defense, but Maclay had other ideas. With only 25 seconds, the Marauders pulled their Keeper, putting him on offense. Off a mid-field penalty, they kicked the ball in to their offensive zone. With the box flooded the box with players, the high kick landed right in the center of the fray. It popped up several times before a kick blasted the ball past Pickett for the tie score. With only 18 seconds left, the overtime expired and it was on to the shoot out with each team getting five penalty kicks.
In the shootout, each team has a single player go to the penalty kick spot to shoot on the opposing Keeper. As the St. Johns crowd erupted to distract, Maclay’s first shot was wide. As St. Johns approached to shoot; it was as quiet as the Masters tee box. St. Johns shot was deflected by the Marauders Keeper, no score. The second shot for both teams went in, 1-1.
In the third round, Maclay again shot wide. Jacob Graston was next and went to the Keepers right side for a score, 2-1.
“Jacob is a 10th grader and sometime defers to the older kids. But tonight, it was his time to really get out there,” said Schmidt.
Maclay scored on round four, followed by Max Monroe with a cannon blast to keep the Spartans out front 3-2.
In the final round, the crowd did their job as best they could with a thunderous distraction, but Maclay would again beat Pickett to tie it up at three. Enter Luke Graston who was hot all game. Graston looked over the entire goal, put his head down to not give away his spot, and pounded a shot past the Keeper for the coveted victory, sending the crowd into pandemonium, charging onto the field.


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