Anthony Wayne's Zach Harris, left, and St. Johns' Adam Naayers collide. The Generals improved to 16-0-4.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
Anthony Wayne senior Grant Oliver couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first goal of the season.
Oliver’s second-half tally in Wednesday night’s Division I boys soccer regional semifinal lifted the Generals over St. John’s Jesuit 2-1.
It will be remembered not only for when it happened but how it happened.
It came off of a free kick with 23:46 left in the game and the score tied at 1. His kick from about 25 yards out was pulled out of the air by St. John’s goalkeeper Jarret Karalfa, who had to reach above his head to catch the ball.
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However, Karalfa stumbled backward a step and into the net and the official immediately ruled it as a goal.
“I never really thought it would be going in, but it is what it is,” Oliver said.
The Generals (16-0-4) will take on Medina (11-1-8) in a regional final at noon Saturday at Sandusky. The teams played to a 2-2 tie early in the regular season.
For AW, which lost last year in the regional semifinals to Southview, advancing to the regional final has been a season-long mission.
“We talked the last couple of days about getting back here,” AW coach Brian Billings said. “This was a very similar type of game, where you score and give up a goal, and that third goal that wins the game is a weird goal. Last year we lost on a 40-yard shot that somehow snuck in.
“So, if this is fate, karma, I don’t know. We’re just happy to win. That’s a very good St. John’s team. We’ve played them twice and both games have been knockout, drag-down kind of battles.”
St. John’s (14-3-2) suffered two of its three losses to the Generals.
Kevin O’Donnell scored the Titans’ only goal with just over 25 minutes left in the second half.
The Generals, who led 1-0 in the first half after J.J. Fortner scored near the 36-minute mark, had been dominating action until O’Donnell’s goal.
But the tie didn’t last long.
Oliver’s goal took place less than two minutes after O’Donnell’s.
“It’s unfortunate, but we’ve won games on calls like that and we’ve lost games on calls like that,” St. John’s coach Tom Shook said. “It happens.”
The Titans first-year coach said the quick goal by Oliver allowed for the Generals to regain the momentum.
“It really took the wind out of our sails at that point,” Shook said. “We had come out at halftime and told them 40 minutes left in the season, so they came out on fire, really playing well.”
The Generals had to play steady down the stretch, particularly Anthony Wayne goalie Austin Kaminski, who finished with seven saves.
The Titans had a number of opportunities at tying the score down the stretch but Kaminski held up to the pressure each time.
“I wanted to just own my own box and I knew I needed to smother the ball,” Kaminski said. “I had to own my box and be confident. I had to get the ball and hold on to it as long as possible.”