St. Francis de Sales senior Tyler Graham's header ended 103 minutes of playoff soccer last night and gave the Knights a berth in the district finals.
Graham scored off of a pass from Jake Martin in the second period of sudden victory overtime for a 2-1 triumph over Northview. Graham's goal lifted St. Francis (13-3-1) to a win in the second 15-minute OT period in a Division I district semifinal at Southview.
Martin lofted a free kick from about 35 yards out and Graham knocked it out of the air to break the 1-1 deadlock with 6:59 left in double overtime.
"This feels great," Graham said. "Jake Martin decided to play it quick and I knew what he was going to do. No one has given us any respect this season."
St. Francis will meet St. John's Jesuit on Saturday in the district final at Southview at 3 p.m. The Titans (12-7-0) blanked Southview 2-0 in the second semi last night.
"We've been depending on Graham a lot this season and I was looking for him," said Martin, a sophomore. "I just put it in the box and he did his best to hit it in."
Northview (10-7-1) shutout St. Francis 2-0 in the season opener on Aug. 27. The Knights, who were ranked seventh in the final D-I state coaches poll, also avenged a loss to the Wildcats that ended their season in the district tournament last season.
"It's always a battle and it's never pretty," St. Francis coach Lee Aliakbar said. "That was a set piece at the end. Credit goes to our boys. It's a thrill because we lost to them last year."
Northview senior Josh Watkins got things going for the Wildcats with a booming kick from 45 yards out. Watkins' long shot bounded in behind St. Francis goalie Patrick Dyer, who had come out to play the ball, with
8:36 left in the first half.
St. Francis knotted things on a superb individual effort by Conner Edgeworth. The junior created his own shot with a nifty move around a defender and fired in a laser from just outside the 18-yard box. Edgeworth's goal tied it at 1 with 2:10 left in the first half.
During a steady drizzle, the Wildcats took control in a scoreless second half, outshooting the Knights 5-2 over the first 20 minutes. Heavy pressure by the Wildcats, who had lost 12 seniors to graduation, at the end did not lead to a goal. Neither team scored in the first 15-minute sudden death period, which was evenly played.
"That was the best game we've played all year," Northview coach Ryan Creech said. "We did not deserve to lose tonight. I thought we got more legitimate chances. We were unlucky at the end."
In the second game, St. John's got up 2-0 and withstood stiff Southview pressure in the second half.
The Titans took a 1-0 lead on Justin Niese's free kick that bounced in off a Southview defender. The "own goal" came at the
23:26 mark of the first half.
Niese then scored off of Brad Vahalik's corner kick early in the second half. Niese slid and knocked it in for a 2-0 Titan lead with
"Our objective was to get that first goal to get on top early," St. John's coach Dan Weisenburger said. "The second goal was big because any mistake you let the other team back in it."
Senior goalie Chip Searles got the shutout and had to be sharp in the second when Southview (6-7-3) pressed.
"Southview was playing harder than us and we let up a bit," Weisenburger said.
St. John's junior Jake Rerucha made a non-goalie save with a header to prevent an early goal. St. John's junior Adam Montague had a free kick from 21 yards out that clanked off the cross bar.
Southview defender Patrick Smith made a nice slide tackle to prevent a shot from being taken inside the Cougars' box. Southview senior Kyle Zaborski just missed on a header that sailed over the cross bar and another Cougar missed on an open one timer late.
St. John's lost 2-1 to St. Francis earlier this season.
"They have a very good team. I'm looking forward to it," Weisenburger said.
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