High school boys soccer: Olympus scores late, late goal to preserve season, 4A title hopes
HOLLADAY — The writing was on the wall. Olympus, the defending champion, was down to its final 15 seconds in the first round of the 4A tournament.
Time and time again the Titans had been turned back against Cyprus. With enough time for one final play, trailing 1-0, only a free kick separated the defending champs from an early offseason.
An Olympus player sent the ball into the box from 30 yards; Olympus' Derrick Neff placed a header perfectly into the path of teammate Billy Madsen; and Madsen unloaded a bullet into the back of the net in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time to resurrect the Titans' hopes.
From there, Olympus staved off Cyprus through two overtimes and eventually extended its season with a 5-4 win in a shootout after the match finished in a 1-1 draw.
“When I went out to help our player off the field at the end (the referee) told me we had 15 seconds,” Olympus coach Chris Sonntag said. “It was the last play of the game. I mean — unbelievable. It was all heart today. There at the end, who comes back and wins like this? They’re the cardiac guys.”
It wasn’t the only time the Titans were left for dead; they were also left for dead after their third attempt in the shootout sailed wide left. The season now was in the hands of sophomore 'keeper Kyle Allred.
“A lot of nerves coming into this game — a lot of them,” Allred said of the first high school postseason game of his career.
Reverting back to his strength, Allred stoned two attempts in the corners, including the final shot after Jaden Olson had put the Titans up 5-4.
“All through practice people have been telling me, ‘Keep your head; go with what you’ve got.’ I knew my right side was my side,” Allred explained. “I just went right and saved it. It was a complete guess, but I got lucky.”
For Olympus, after losing 13 players from last year, the last-second goal may not have been possible if not for an unfortunate injury. The Pirates' 'keeper, Meldin Kokic, was in the midst of perhaps his finest performance of the year and Jarom Farnsworth's goal in the 47th minute was beginning to look insurmountable.
Kokic single-handedly turned back Olympus on a two-on-none fast break. He saved free kicks, corner kicks and headers. The senior, who resembled a heavyweight boxer, used his height to deflect shots over the posts and his length to brush aside each attempt.
However, deep into the six-minute stoppage time in the second half, Kokic injured his knee on a yellow card awarded to Olympus. The injury forced Kokic to leave under the assistance of trainers and teammates and ultimately provided the Titans an opportunity to extend the game into overtime.
Kokic later returned for both overtimes and penalty kicks but noticeably struggled moving toward his right. The Titans took advantage and booted four of the five kicks into the right-hand corner.
“I’m not sure our guys really picked up that. We saw that he was injured, but I’m not really sure they picked up on it,” Sonntag said. “I think they were just trying to hit their corners. There’s so much pressure at that point that we tell them (to) work it like a free throw — pick a spot and hit it.”