It was soccer’s equivalent of the Hail Mary pass, and Kenai junior Braedon Pitsch made the most out of it.
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé led 1-0 during second half stoppage time of the Division II boys soccer state championship game, and Kenai’s free kick over 40 yards from the net marked the Kardinals’ last chance to tie the game and force overtime.
Pitsch, the goalkeeper who had abandoned his net moments earlier, would knot the game at 1-1 on the desperation play, and the Kardinals would go on to win 3-2 in overtime to capture their second consecutive state championship on Saturday at Service High School in Anchorage.
“For them to equalize 30 seconds left in the game was kind of heartbreaking,” JDHS senior Ronan Davies said. “But credit to our team. We stuck together. It sucks to lose but we’re still a super close group of friends and we’ll have that for life.”
JDHS (12-4-1) and Kenai (13-4-2) kept their respective opponents scoreless in their two prior tournament games. The Crimson Bears outscored Palmer and Thunder Mountain 7-0 through two rounds, while the Kardinals outscored Grace Christian and Ketchikan 5-0 over the previous two days.
The Crimson Bears and Kardinals traded goals in the first overtime period.
After Leif Lofquist put the Kardinals up 2-1 on the first play of the extra session, JDHS senior Kanon Goetz responded. Goetz, who already had one overtime goal on the tournament, tied the game at 2-2 in the 91st minute.
“When they scored in the first overtime, it was a real gut check, so I’m really proud of the guys that they picked it up after that and didn’t quit,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “They got themselves back together and we scored the equalizer and we had a lot of chances again, but so did they.”
The game was still tied 2-2 after the second overtime period, leading to a five-minute sudden-death session. It was then that Lofquist struck again — putting away the game with a left-foot strike.
Lehnhart said while he’s experienced plenty of golden goal finishes at the state tournament, it’s the first time he’s seen a game slip away in such a late stage in regulation.
“I’ve never seen a goal scored in the fourth minute of injury time in regulation to tie it up,” Lehnhart said. “That was a pretty bitter pill to swallow.”
ASAA/First National Bank state soccer championships
Division II boys
Kenai Central 3, Juneau 2 (Championship)
Ketchikan 5, Thunder Mountain 3 (Third place)
Homer 1, Monroe 0 (Fourth place)
Juneau 1, Thunder Mountain 0 (Semifinal)
Kenai Central 2, Ketchikan 0 (Semifinal)
Monroe 3, Palmer 1 (Loser out)
Homer 2, Grace Christian 1 (Loser out)
Damien Reebler, Kenai Central; Leif Lofquist, Kenai Central; Kanon Goetz, Juneau-Douglas; Jackson Norberg, Juneau-Douglas; Brayden Linne, Ketchikan; Eyoab Knapp, Homer; Jacob Babcock, Thunder Mountain; Apollo Jasper, Ketchikan; Nathan Walsh, Monroe Catholic; Koby Goldstein, Juneau-Douglas; Braedon Pitsch, Kenai Central; Paul Kopp, Grace Christian.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.