Sometimes the game can break your heart.
The I-Prep/Grover boys soccer team certainly knows all about that. The Presidents were 46.6 seconds away from winning the Far West Regionals at Sweet Home High School on Saturday night. But Section V's Livonia tied the game at 2-2 with that much time left, survived overtime, and won on penalty kicks (6-5) to advance to the state's final four competition.
There were no smiles by the other two teams from Section VI in the triple-header. In the opener, Alfred-Almond pounded Pine Valley, 5-0, in the Class B final. Fairport knocked off Clarence, 1-0, in the AA final.
The matchup between I-Prep and Livonia was filled with drama, starting with a Bulldogs' goal in the first 45 seconds of play. The Presidents (19-2) bounced back to score the next two goals of the game and controlled the game. When Abdullahi Hussein scored with 11:19 left, it looked like the game-winner.
But Livonia (18-3) was awarded a free kick in the last minute, and the ball floated into a big crowd in front of the net. Tyler Dolan put in the tying goal.
"It looked like there was a lot of traffic," I-Prep coach Tony Alessi said. "It went through my goalie's hands. I'm sure knows he should have caught it. Nobody feels worse than he does. But take your hat off to Livonia. They played well."
In the shootout, the teams both converted five of their first six shots. Tavlan Hino's score proved decisive for Livonia.
"This one put another couple of years on me, that's for sure," Livonia coach Raymond Maxwell said. "We practice penalty kicks, but we haven't done them in a game in a long while."
"Our guys put it all on the line," Alessi said. "When we got down to the penalty kicks, we didn't get it done and they did."
In the opener, Pine Valley (17-2) was no match for Alfred-Almond and its dominating performance.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they go on and win the state championship," Pine Valley coach Dave Pihlblad said about the Eagles (18-1-2). "I saw them play twice this year, and I knew we were going to be in for a tough game."
Alfred-Almond had a huge territorial edge in the first half but only scored once. Pine Valley needed a kind bounce or something to get back in the game, but didn't get it.
"We had a real good chance in the second half but didn't finish, and then they just broke us down," Pihlblad said.
Jake Johnston, one of Section V's top scorers, had two goals to break the game open, and the Eagles padded their lead the rest of the way. Considering the shots finished 29-4 in favor of A-A, goalkeeper Makiah Snyder did well to keep the score at 5-0.
"I told the boys to have fun and play your best, and we'll see what happens," Pihlblad said. "There's nothing to be disappointed about."
In the night's final game, Clarence (16-3-1) couldn't generate much offense throughout the contest, and came away with the loss to the No. 1-ranked AA team in the state.
"We didn't get the ball wide, and they clogged the middle," coach Mike Silverstein of the Red Devils said. "We had trouble with that. We had chances, but not enough of them."
Still, Clarence stayed close enough to threaten most of the time. The game's only goal came in the first minute of the second half.
"We talked at halftime about coming out and shooting from long distance. And my striker," Matthew Gasbarre, "listened, and he cracked a shot that caught their goalie back on the line," Fairport coach Gianni Bussani said. "Fortunately, that was all we needed."
A Section VI title served as a good reward for Clarence's season, even if the final game against Fairport (18-1-1) didn't go according to plan.
"It will linger for a little bit, but we want these guys to think about what they accomplished and celebrate what they did," Silverstein said.