GAS CITY — Tension built minute by minute Saturday afternoon as position players from Northwestern and Oak Hill took long walks from midfield to the penalty spot to go toe-to-toe with Oak Hill goalie Seth O’Blenis and Northwestern goalie Eli Edwards. Those two got no relief from the tension because the parade of players kept coming.
The teams were tied through five penalties, going to sudden-death rounds and still deadlocked after each goalie saved a shot in the sixth, then deadlocked again after each penalty taker scored in the seventh round. Finally, in the eighth round, Northwestern missed its penalty and Oak Hill’s Evan Pierce pounded the net with his spot kick, winning the Class 2A Mississinewa Sectional final for the Golden Eagles.
The teams had tied 1-1 in regulation and were still tied after 14 minutes of overtime before the defending sectional champs retained the title in the shootout.
“Oak Hill’s a great team,” NW coach Aaron Longgood said. “They stayed really disciplined. At the end of the day, when it comes down to PKs, anything can happen. You can never fault a guy for missing a PK. I’m just really proud of the effort these guys made all year long. It’s just going to be really tough to see that senior class go.”
O’Blenis made three saves in the shootout and made another nine saves in the game for No. 18 Oak Hill. Edwards saved two shots in the shootout and had seven saves in the game for the No. 14 Tigers. Both are seniors. They were in nets for a tense game that saw Northwestern score in the game’s first 15 minutes, and Oak Hill tie with just 13 minutes left to force OT.
Wes Miller got the Tigers on the board first with a goal in the 15th minute. O’Blenis saved a hard shot from mid-range but the rebound fell off to the right side of the goal and Miller was fastest to the loose ball to score on the rebound.
The Tigers kept the pressure on in the second half, moved to a high press when Oak Hill’s defense had the ball, and created some clear looks at goal but didn’t make O’Blenis come up with big stops in those situations. He only had one save in the second half as Northwestern put some good looks just wide or just over the net.
“We wanted to keep the pressure up and keep it from going to overtime and they didn’t fall our way.” Longgood said. “The game plan worked and they got a counterattack and they converted it. I thought we dominated the whole game. We weathered a storm for about 10-15 minutes the end of the first half we came out [in the second half] and we wanted t press. We should have scored a couple but that’s soccer. I’m not trying to take anything away from the guys.”
Oak Hill (13-4-1) mostly played deep to deal with Northwestern’s all-field possession game, then got the goal it needed in the 67th minute. The Eagles launched forward Isaac Gegner on a one-on-one break down the near left. He withstood a physical challenge from a Tiger defender and scored from 15 yards out.
“We left it all on the field, but we also left a lot of chances on the table,” Longgood said. “We had a ton of chances in the box and sometimes it doesn’t happen, but that doesn’t discount the season. 14-3-2 is an incredible season, especially this senior class. Their first two years they were a .500 team. They come out the last two years, won 27 games and were in the top 20 both years. That’s the change we wanted to see.”