St. John's Mark Witherell, left, and Lakewood's Veton Esati fight to gain control of the ball last night in a Division I regional soccer semifinal at Huron. St. John's won the game and will take a 12-6-3 record into Saturday's regional final against Strongsville, which defeated Perrysburg 3-0 last night at Medina.
HURON, Ohio - In a sport where one single goal is precious and often is all that determines the outcome, second chances are even rarer.
But St. John's Jesuit senior Sean Boyle got one of those second chances last night in a Division I boys regional soccer final and made it count in the Titans' 1-0 victory over Lakewood.
The win advanced St. John's (12-6-3) to a regional final Saturday against Strongsville (14-2-4) with the time and place to be determined.
Boyle's quick throw-in from the right sideline caught the Rangers by surprise as they were flowing toward the St. John's goal thinking the throw-in was theirs.
But the head-up toss found the mark to junior Patrick Pickering, who was streaking down the middle.
Pickering split the last two Ranger defenders and delivered a quick right-footer off the hand of Lakewood goalkeeper Helge Rustenberg and into the net with 24:07 remaining in the second 40-minute half.
"I was just trying to catch them off guard," Boyle said. "They were all pushing forward for their throw and, when it went out of bounds, I just took it and we had a breakaway.
"I tried to get it as close to [Pickering's] foot as possible and just let him go. He's a real fast kid. It always pays to catch 'em off guard."
It was the sixth goal of the season for Pickering.
"I just came in on that throw," Pickering said of his fortuitous timing. "I was only in there for about 10 seconds and that happened. [Titan Jordan] Schotter was right in front of Boyle and I made a run behind Schotter.
"He throws the ball over Schotter and I sneaked behind their last defender and I just toe-poked it. Their goalie got a hand on it and, literally, time froze right there, and it hit the back of the net. I just went crazy and went back to the bench."
In the first half, Boyle was foiled on a golden opportunity when Rustenberg dived to his left to poke away Boyle's penalty kick with 15:36 left in the first half.
St. John's was awarded the kick when Lakewood was whistled for a hand ball in front of the net on a Titan attack
"I put it to the side, and it wasn't a bad kick," Boyle said. "It was going inside [the goal post], but he's a big keeper and he got his full body out there and got his hand on it. It was an amazing save. He guessed right. I was pretty upset about it, but you can't dwell on it."
Titan senior goalkeeper Nick Harpel was spared a lot of work on this night thanks to a St. John's defense that kept the Titans on the attack most of the game. But Harpel delivered when called upon as Lakewood tried mightily to forge a tie in the closing minute.
With just 48 seconds remaining, on a bang-bang play, the Rangers' Veton Esati sent a header goalward from 12 feet out. Harpel quickly flicked his right hand upward and deflected the would-be equalizer over the crossbar to preserve the win.
"It built up through the midfield and they played it out wide," Harpel said of the Lakewood attack. "The kid sneaked through on the ball and just had a chip shot.
"My adrenaline was pumping. I looked up at the crossbar and the ball, and I had to get it."