While there isn't a Hail Mary play in soccer, the events that unfolded in the final seconds of Wednesday night's Section VI overall Class A final might be this sport's equivalent.
East Aurora had its prayer answered as the unbeaten Blue Devils turned almost certain defeat into a stunning 4-3 overtime victory over two-time defending champion Grand Island at Robert P. Barczak Stadium at Sweet Home High School.
Pat Philips' header with 12.7 seconds left erased a Vikings lead that lasted all of 17 seconds. Jack Bean, who assisted on that goal, won it with 49.5 seconds left in the first golden-goal overtime session – tucking a close-range shot in under the bar to spark a wild, emotional celebration in front of an estimated 500 fans.
"Honestly I still don't even know what the heck just happened on that field," said senior Bryce Schiltz, who scored twice for EA. "It's just crazy, especially as a typical (Class) B school to come up in the As and knock off a team like Grand Island that's a perennial winner been to states the past two years, it's a great feeling."
"Never had a finish like that in any kind of game," longtime Blue Devils coach Kevin Beale said. "We scored with 6 minutes left in the A final years ago but to be dead on the floor with 30 seconds left, we got up and just said we're just going. Drew a foul and got a free kick against a quality goalie. It's just emotion."
It was almost an emotional comeback triumph for a Vikings crew that graduated several members from last year's state runner-up team. John Griffin, who hit a crossbar and got thwarted on a few other great scoring chances, broke a 2-2 tie when his shot in the box found the back of the net with 29.7 left in regulation.
With one of the best goalies in Western New York guarding the GI cage, one would think it's safe to start planning for a Friday night road trip to Spencerport to see the Far West Regional contest against the Section V champion.
It wasn't as the never-say-die Blue Devils (20-0) pressed and drew a free kick from roughly 30 yards out. Bean booted a high shot over the wall into the cluster of players in the box, which included EA goalie Dan Philips. But it was his brother Pat who headed the ball past a helpless Steven Pufpaff creating the big finish fans had hoped to see with these two soccer heavyweights facing each other.
"It was just a great feeling being able to run down the field and know my season wasn't over yet," said Pat Philips, who left the game in overtime with a shoulder injury after colliding with a Grand Island player.
Each team had chances to win it in OT before Bean ended it – securing a wild win for an East Aurora team that gave up more goals Wednesday than it had in its previous 19 games (two). Until David Bilek of Grand Island (13-4-3) scored the first of his two goals early in the second half, the Blue Devils hadn't yielded a goal since Sept. 23.
"It's definitely hard to take," GI coach Frank Butcher said. "We thought we had it, but I guess it just goes to show it's not over until it's over. You have to give credit to them they could've easily have folded but they pushed, they worked and got their goal. We had chances in overtime. We were unlucky they didn't fall in for us today."
"It's a great feeling," Schiltz said. "We showed we can fight with the biggest of the schools and the best of the programs."