BOUNTIFUL — Josh Ludlow had a hunch, and he played it perfectly.
When Friday's 4A boys soccer quarterfinal clash between Bountiful and Mountain View went into a shootout, Ludlow, the Braves' senior goalkeeper, had a sneaking suspicion where Cameron Hall, the Bruins' second shooter, was going to try and put his penalty kick.
So when Hall, who had scored a last-gasp, game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation to deadlock things at 2-2 and send it into overtime, fired his PK, Ludlow leaped full out to his left.
"I don't want to give away what I do," Ludlow said, "but I can read what they're doing."
And, sure enough, Ludlow was right on the money and batted the ball away. And since Bountiful's first four PK shooters each successfully converted their shots, when Mountain View's fourth shooter banged his attempt off the crossbar, the Braves' team and fans erupted in joyful celebration following the dramatic 4-2 shootout victory that vaulted Bountiful into next week's 4A semifinals against Murray.
"It's not the way I like to win," Ludlow said, "but it's certainly an option. I don't feel a lot of pressure going into it, but I've been in a lot of PKs but not a full-on shootout. I'm still all jittery.
"I thought it was going in," he said of the Bruins' final bid to try and keep the shootout going, "but then I heard the bang (off the crossbar) and I knew it was game over."
So, how tense was it?
"The scariest thing in my life," said Bountiful sophomore Alex Simpson, who scored the Braves' first goal of the game. "Our goalie, Josh Ludlow, he's amazing; he saved us."
Ludlow's coach, Lou Plank, also had high praise for his senior goalie after he helped lift the Braves' record to 12-3-1 with their 10th win in their last 12 games.
"He's an outstanding 'keeper and is the reason we've got so many Ws this season," Plank said.
This one, though, was far from easy.
Mountain View took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when Bountiful misplayed a ball deep in its own end of the field and the Bruins' Edgar Cordova capitalized with the game's first goal.
That score stood up until halftime and beyond, as Bountiful got very few good scoring opportunities because Mountain View's midfield and backline repeatedly kept the Braves from getting a decent shot.
And on those rare occasions when they did, Bruins' goalie Austin McBride was there to keep Bountiful off the scoreboard.
"After we made that defensive error at the back on their first goal, I was hoping that the boys would respond mentally, and they did that," Plank said. "They just rolled up their sleeves and went back to work. So they responded well mentally, and that's something we've been working on.
"The momentum shifted in the second half; we were getting lots of opportunities, and that's a credit to the boys and their spirit and endurance. So they responded well; our captains showed up big; and some young players responded and made a big splash."
In the 68th minute, Bountiful's Simpson, whose dead-on shot in the 62nd minute was deflected away by McBride, got to a high-bouncing ball that McBride couldn't corral and drilled it into the back of the net to tie it at 1-1, giving the Braves a huge, energizing lift.
"I don't know what happened; something just turned on and something clicked and everyone just got up and supported each other and we got excited," Simpson said of his game-tying goal. "The ball was headed back to the goalie and I just ran fast and waited for their bad ball and it came, and I kicked it over him."
"Our whole team just felt the energy that came from that," Bountiful junior Nate Smith said of Simpson's goal. "We just got going; we just caught fire and just kept going."
With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Bountiful's David Higginson crossed a perfectly placed pass in front of the goal mouth, and Smith headed it sharply into the net for a 2-1 lead.
"I just recognized that Dave was bringing the ball down," Smith said, "and I just moved into the middle and was at the right place at the right time."
But the Braves couldn't hold on to the lead until the end of regulation. With time running out, Mountain View's Alec Woolley made a long throw-in into the box, and Hall punched it in to tie things up at 2-2.
"There was a shock of losing the lead right then," Smith said. "Mountain View's a good team, and we just came out and we just fought and went hard."
Plank, whose team won the Region 6 title, knew Friday's quarterfinal game would be a difficult challenge because he's faced the Bruins' coach, Mark Graham, in the playoffs before.
"I first met him in 2008 in the finals, and I knew then we were going to have our hands full because they're a well-coached team," Plank said. "He's a very good coach.
"I saw him again a couple of years ago in the quarters, when we lost to them in overtime, so this is our turn, I guess."
The two teams played through two tough, scoreless 10-minute overtimes before going to the shootout to decide it.
And, again, the Braves stepped up.
"When (the Bruins) scored their second goal with about 30-some-odd seconds left in regulation, that was the second time I said, 'Now we're going to see what (the players') characters are made of,' and they just went right back to it," Plank said. "And we had good opportunities in overtime.
"We were prepared for a shootout. These guys have put in a lot of prctice in shootout situations. If you're ever going to prepare for a shootout, the state tournament's the time to do it. It doesn't take a mathematician to look back at the brackets every year and see how many of those games (go to shootouts). You could argue roughly a third of them go to shootouts."
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