SUMNER – Mere seconds from overtime, Bear Creek found a way.
The Grizzlies got a game-winning goal from Sajan Nauriyal in the last moments of stoppage time that lifted Bear Creek to a 2-1 victory over St. George’s in the first of two boys state 1B/2B soccer semifinals at Sunset Chev Stadium on Friday.
“We work on that play, literally, for hours and hours and hours,” Bear Creek coach Chad Pohlman said. “To see it happen that way, to win a game of that magnitude, is very satisfying.”
All of the game’s scoring happened in the final 20 minutes.
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But with things tied at 1-1 and the clock running out, the Grizzlies knew they had just one more run. The ball came to midfielder Jesse Leuneberger, who moved the ball toward the box.
Leuneberger juked one defender, then a second as he drove down the left side.
“He’d been doing it all night, and we told him to just keep doing it,” Pohlman said. “He smoked one across the box. Sajan got a toe on it for the game-winner.”
The thriller of a win catapulted the Grizzlies into the state championship game against Grace Academy, which won the other semifinal, at 4 p.m. on Saturday. St. George’s will play in the consolation final at Noon.
Nik Avakyan appeared to save St. George, converting a penalty kick after being fouled in the penalty area as he tried to score the tying goal with about eight minutes to play.
Until that penalty opportunity, it looked as though the lone goal to that point, scored in the 61st minute by Sam Humphries, would stand up. Humphries, a sophomore forward, was in close near the left upright when the ball came back off a deflection. Worrall had just made one of his seven saves.
St. George’s couldn’t clear the ball, though, and Humphries was there in front to put it in the back of the net.
“We’d had the momentum, were playing well, and got the goal,” Pohlman said. “Then they get the penalty kick. Clearly the game shifted at that moment. We were trying to hold on, get the game into overtime. We were fortunate to get one last shot at it.”
Bear Creek dictated play throughout, especially during the first half. That left St. George’s with few options offensively other than to counter attack off of defensive transitions.
The Dragons’ best threat came on Erik Muelheim’s breakaway almost nine minutes into the contest. But Bear Creek goalie Blake Denniston rushed out, slid and deflected Muelheim’s shot away.
Grace Academy 3, Waitsburg-Prescott 1
Jeremiah Lee capped a solid effort for the Eagles with a pretty goal in the 71st minute.
Lee took the ball just inside the 18-yard box, with his back to the goal. Lee faked left, putting his defender off balance, then spun to his right and pounded a low shot into the far corner to make it 3-1.