There’s never a palatable way to lose a playoff game, but some are downright heart-ripping.
After 110 minutes of bruising, up-and-down soccer, including the final 35 playing a man down without their captain and offensive sparkplug, the Hilton Head Island boys bowed out of the Class 3-A playoffs Tuesday night in a penalty-kick shootout against Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach’s Foster Russell delivered the deciding blow, cracking a shot inside the right post that goalkeeper Marlon Ascencion had no chance at. It was the fourth conversion in five attempts by the visitors, after two of Hilton Head’s attempts were stopped.
Regulation ended in a 3-3 draw, followed by 20 scoreless minutes of extra time and 10 more of sudden death.
“I talk a lot about soccer gods,” Hilton Head coach John Teller said. “Soccer gods are evil, cruel people.”
The Seahawks had hoped to duplicate the script written by their girls one night earlier, a 1-0 victory over Myrtle Beach that delivered a sixth consecutive Lower State title to the program. Instead, they came up one step short.
Myrtle Beach goalkeeper David Caraker came up big in the shootout, stopping shots by Nick Hoffman and Jesus Garcia to put Hilton Head on its heels. Ascencion also parried away an attempt by Myrtle Beach’s Hunter Hardin, but saw another skip off his leg behind him into the net.
Soccer gods are evil, cruel people.
Hilton Head Island coach John Teller, after the heartbreaking loss
When the final shot was taken, at least a half-dozen Hilton Head players collapsed to the ground in physical exhaustion and emotional agony.
“These kids have a special bond with each other,” said Teller, who went 19-3-1 in his first season after replacing program godfather Wayne Quinlan. “They pulled and pushed each other along all season. I’m just grateful to have been along for the ride.”
Koben Barrientos scored a pair of first-half goals for Hilton Head, and Noa Pagatpatan drew the Seahawks even in the 57th minute with a brilliant header off a low-flying corner kick from Kevin Palacio. But it was Pagatpatan’s mistake 18 minutes later that turned the tide.
In a physical, sometimes heated contest, the Hilton Head captain drew a second yellow card in the 75th minute for disputing an earlier no-call. That not only left the Seahawks a man down, but took away their best offensive threat.
“He’s one of the top 18 players in the state,” Teller noted. “But (the rest) kept battling and scrapping. It speaks a lot to their character.”
Nonetheless, Hilton Head created few scoring chances after Pagatpatan’s departure. Caraker was tested just three times, and then only mildly.
Meantime, Myrtle Beach could have ended it well before the shootout if not for Ascencion’s heroics. He collected a Russell header in the 88th minute, and parried away a point-blank shot from Lenin Molina near the end of the first extra time.