HURON The matchup between unranked Northview and second-ranked Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a Division I boys regional semifinal last night will remain etched in the minds of the Wildcats for quite some time.
Northview kicked it around with Brecksville-Broadview Heights for more than 109 minutes before Mike Hartman scored with 22 seconds remaining in the second 15-minute overtime period to give the Bees a 2-1 victory over a stunned Wildcats team at Huron High.
The last 22 seconds we just fell apart inside the box, said Northview goalie Chris Buchholz, who kept the Bees (18-0-2) flustered for most of the match with stellar play. Buchholz and the rest of the Wildcats (15-5) certainly proved they belonged on the same field with the Bees.
A goal by Northview s Kevin Okapal off a corner kick in the 72nd minute of play tied the score at 1 and ultimately sent the match into overtime.
And it looked as if the tightly played contest would be decided by a shootout.
After neither team found a way to gain an edge for most of the two extra periods, both coaches had already begun to think beyond the overtime. No one anticipated a goal coming in the waning seconds of the second OT.
I was making out my lineup [for a shootout] just as they were taking the corner kick, Bees coach Mike Battista said.
The sudden ending also took Northview coach Ryan Creech by surprise.
I m hurting and I m really hurting for the kids because they fought so hard today, Creech said. I m really proud of them. I think this was probably the best playoff game I ve ever seen.
Hartman s goal came after the ball was kicked around a few times before it rolled away from a pack and gave him a clear look at the right side of the Wildcats goal. Hartman, standing about five yards out, booted the ball just past the outstretched hands of Buchholz.
Brandon Stelmak gave the Bees a 1-0 edge when he scored on a penalty kick at the 64:15 mark. However, the Bees attempt to try and rely on their defense to shut out the Wildcats didn t last long before Okapal tied the score by scoring a goal in his third straight playoff game.
This was as intense a game as we ve played in all season, Battista said. They [the Wildcats] just knocked us off our rhythm because of their work rate.
I thought they would wear down in the second half but they didn t.
Both teams had their share of opportunities to win the game late in the second half and earlier in the extra periods. However, if it wasn t a shot that bounced off the post, it was a goalie making a save.
I ve been coaching here for 10 years and I m more proud of this team than any other team, Creech said. They played with heart and played with a lot of character.
Contact Donald Emmons at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6302.