If the Homer boys were any closer, they would be state semifinalists.
Instead, the Mariners will have to settle for playing for fourth place after a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss to Ketchikan in the first round of the Div. II boys state soccer tournament at West High School.
Homer tied it late in regulation with a stellar goal by sophomore Phinny Weston, forcing two 10-minute overtime periods, but the Kings caught a huge break with four minutes left in OT on a penalty charged to the Mariners, and Ketchikan converted the penalty kick to take the lead and ultimately seal the win.
It provided the last touch of drama in a thrilling game.
“We had chances, and we missed,” said Homer head coach Warren Waldorf. “What are you going to do?”
Homer will continue 3 p.m. Friday against Grace Christian at Eagle River High School. The winner of that game will play for fourth place in the tournament on Saturday.
Homer and Ketchikan played to 1-all draw on April 18, and Thursday’s state quarterfinal was just as close. The No. 3 seed Mariners had to face the No. 6 seed Kings without one of their best players, Daniel Reutov, who went down with an injury at last week’s Peninsula Conference tournament in Homer.
Waldorf said Reutov’s absence left a “huge” impact on the game, the talented junior notched 19 goals and 10 assists in the regular season to lead Homer.
Ketchikan took a 1-0 halftime lead courtesy of a Homer own-goal, which occurred on a Ketchikan throw-in by Phillip Smith, whose throw bounced off a defender and past Homer goalkeeper Clayton Beachy.
As the minutes ticked down in regulation, Homer continued to press, and the pressure paid off with seven minutes left when Homer received a free kick just outside the edge of the goal box. Weston’s initial kick clanged off the crossbar and back into traffic, and Weston deposited the rebound into the upper reaches of the netting to tie it up.
With two minutes remaining in regulation, Homer saw a golden opportunity to take the lead wasted when Dexter Lowe settled the ball and found space in the goal box to cross it to Tom Gorman, who had an open look on Ketchikan’s goalie, only to miss his shot just wide of the post.
“That was it right there,” Waldorf said. “It’s not easy to score a goal. Things are happening really fast, and you give it your best effort, and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.
“They’re not pros. They’re not even college players.”
In the second OT period, Ketchikan striker Jake Taylor was tackled in the goal box to give the Kings a PK, and Jaret Warstler converted to give Ketchikan a 2-1 lead, which they held until the final whistle.
Waldorf had no opinion on the call.
“I was too far away from it to see,” Waldorf said.
Kenai boys 3, Grace 0
The Kenai boys got their state title defense off to an explosive start with a win over Grace Christian on Thursday night at West High School.
No. 2 seeded Kenai raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first half with goals from Nate Beiser, Damien Redder and Tomas Levy-Canedo, then held on without much struggle to knock the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies out of state title contention.
“Guys were moving the ball well and finishing well,” said Kenai head coach Shane Lopez. “Now we’ve just got to go home, rest up, come out ready to play tomorrow.”
The Kardinals will face Ketchikan today in a 7 p.m. state semifinal at West High School, and the winner will play for the Division II state crown Saturday at noon at Service High School. The Kings knocked off Homer earlier in the evening.
Kenai controlled possession for large portions of the first half, and was routinely able to drive deep into Grace territory to set up crosses for the strikers. Beiser connected on a long strike 11 minutes in to put Kenai on the board, then in the 25th minute, Redder collected a through ball and raced to the edge of the goal box to deliver a superb shot into the upper netting for a 2-0 lead.