SANDUSKY — Ottawa Hills and Gates Mills Hawken played a fast and physical contest Wednesday night in a Division III state semifinal at Firelands Regional Medical Center Field.
Neither side wanted to concede an inch. Giving in, not an option. No one wanted to leave the field without solidifying a spot to play in the state championship match.
Finally, Hawken's Kevin Harkey goal with 29.2 seconds remaining in the second 15-minute overtime gave handed Ottawa Hills a 2-1 loss.
The Hawks will face Cincinnati Summit Country Day in the championship game Saturday at Columbus Crew Stadium.
"I was sitting there making my [penalty kick] lineup," Ottawa Hills first-year coach Robert Gabriel III said of when Harkey's sudden goal came in the final minute of OT. "But what can you do?
"I'm still very proud of them. We were doubted this season and we weren't ranked in the state all season. But they came all the way here and were one of the top four teams in the state. We'll take it."
The Bears' season could have easily lasted another 29.2 seconds to decide the outcome by penalty kicks.
However, Harkey had the unexpected opportunity to score the late goal off a loose ball bouncing near the Bears’ goal, and he made the most of the situation to send the defending state runners-up back to the state title game.
"I think it was a very, very hard fought game, and it could have gone either way," Hawken coach Dani Giulvezan said. "You need to have a little bit of the luck at the right time, at the right place. The ball really fell our way and we were able to take advantage of it.
"We scored, and I'm very proud of my boys and very proud of my school, and we're going to go forward from here."
The physical play between the Bears (17-3-2) and Hawks (17-1-4) commenced almost immediately, resulting in plenty of pushing and shoving on the fast-surface field turf.
The match stood scoreless for much of the first half before Hawken forward Graham Duff gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead with a goal with 16 minutes, 37 seconds to play before halftime. Duff managed to boot his goal past Bears goalie Michael Geiger off a throw-in.
The Bears' situation took a turn for the worst seven minutes into the second half after Ottawa Hills senior Zack Hauck suffered a broken ankle that required him to be taken to the hospital.
The Bears defender sustained the injury while attempting to avoid a collision by jumping over Hawken defender Zack Whiting as both pursued the ball. Hauck landed, and he immediately expressed pain from an injury. Play was delayed 20 minutes until medics attended to Hauck and rolled him off the field on a stretcher.
When action resumed the Bears made it known almost immediately they weren't about to pack it in for the night.
Ottawa Hills' Brandon Zakeri tied the score 1-1 when he recorded his 21st goal of the season with 23:02 left in regulation. Blake Pappas earned the assist when he delivered the pass to Zakeri, who kicked a shot that bounced off the left post, then bounced into the net past Hawken goalie Peter Labes.
Both sides continued to put pressure on the senior goalies during the remainder of the second half. But Geiger and Labes kept the opposition out of the net to send the state semifinal into overtime.
"It's tough because it was definitely an even matched game," Geiger said. "I think we outplayed them. It's rough, but I can't let it affect the great career we've had."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade