KATHLEEN, Ga. — Most coaches don’t enjoy the idea of penalty kicks deciding a game, much less a team’s season.
So Veterans head boys soccer coach Matthew Roth was less than thrilled sitting in the middle of the field Wednesday night as his Warhawks headed to penalty kicks against Richmond Academy in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAAA state playoffs.
“Penalty kicks are not where you want to go (in your first playoff game),” Roth said. “But we battled back, and I felt confident because we practice them.”
The Musketeers (10-8-1) sent two kicks wide, and Veterans’ Luke Boyd buried the final penalty kick in the corner of the net to push the Warhawks to a 4-3 victory after playing to a 1-all tie after regulation and overtime.
Veterans (14-1-2) will play host to Jonesboro in the second round after the Cardinals upset Cairo on the road. It was a second penalty-kick loss in two weeks for the Musketeers, who also fell lost to Statesboro in the Region 3-AAAA Tournament semifinals.
“We come in thinking we’re better than the other team, and sometimes we have an ego,” Veterans senior Sean Joiner said. “We just have to have the mentality to work hard out there.’
Joiner said that ego took a hit when Richmond Academy scored on a Joseph Ardrey goal with 9 minutes to play in the first half.
The Ardrey goal came after Veterans missed wide right on two breakaway opportunities in the first half.
“Sometimes misses like those can get you down, so I challenged them at the half to be more aggressive,” Roth said.
The Warhawks evened the score 13 minutes into the second half on a perfect cross from Elijah Milteer’s foot to Michael Bailey’s head to beat the Richmond Academy keeper.
The Warhawks would miss another two shots in the second half, one on a ball chipped over an open net and the other on a save by the Musketeers’ keeper that thwarted a one-on-one chance.
Richmond Academy controlled the ball very little in the two overtimes. The Musketeers seemed content to try to pack it in and clear the ball out for a counter attack, but that opportunity never came.
With about a minute left to play, a ball rattled around a busy eight-yard box and inched closer to the goal line. The official on the line ruled it didn’t cross into the goal.
Both teams instead regrouped and prepared for penalty kicks. After Richmond Academy hit the post on its first shot and Veterans missed wide right, the teams each made their next two shots.
“Knowing that it could be your last game, you really want to make it count,” said Joseph Faletto, who scored the first of Veterans’ four penalty kicks.
Richmond Academy missed wide right on its fourth attempt, and freshman Mark Yeager scored to give the Warhawks the advantage. After the Musketeers scored on their final attempt, Boyd scored and sent the Warhawks into a raucous celebration.
“You just have to go out there and get the job done, however it works,” Joiner said.