Memorable...shocking...heart-stopping...exhiliarating.. And, all that doesn't even come close to describing Lambert (20-1-0) boys varsity's 2-1 penalty-kicks victory Tuesday over the Meadowcreek Mustangs (12-9-1) in their semifinal match of the Georgia 7A championships. With the win, the defending state champions move on to the final match against Lakeside-Dekalb, and a chance to defend their crown.
The Lambert fan section of biggest home crowd of the season at the Horn was shocked into silence when the slick, speedy Mustangs scored the first goal, just under two minutes into the match.
Forced to battle from behind for only the third time this season, the Longhorns grew into the task and appeared to score the tying goal with 13 minutes remaining in the half. But, the offside flag was up and the score remained, 0-1. Eight minutes later, the 'Horns blasted their way back into the match as forward Kyler Darsey converted a rebound after a Jay Patterson free kick from 38 yards out hit the crossbar. The Lambert fans exploded with joy and relief. Halftime score: Lambert 1, Meadowbrook 1.
What followed in the second half and beyond will likely never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The two teams played end-to-end, high intensity soccer, which included some very physical play. That included a battle between Lambert's Trey Kirksey and a Mustang forward.
As usual in the second half, the Longhorns switched their offense into high-gear. During a memorable sequence late in the half, the Mustang keeper made a remarkable save on a header off a Lambert corner. On the rebound, the 'Horns fired another shot off the crossbar, only to have the keeper make another big save on yet another rebound. The match remained tied.
With eight minutes left in the half, a Meadowcreek forward drew his second yellow card of the match, leading to an automatic red card and an ejection. Still, even down a man, the Mustangs continued to match the Longhorns shot-for-shot, counterattack-for-counterattack. But neither team scored, pushing the elimination struggle into overtime.
The Mustangs roared on the attack as the overtime started. In the first two minutes, a Meadowcreek thrust forward was barely held off by Lambert keeper Chris Smith and defender Noah Sivinski.
With about five minutes left in the overtime, Lambert fired back, nearly taking the lead off a corner kick which was smashed into the crossbar by Noah Sivinski. Defender Harry Maughan got the rebound and zipped it toward the net, but, again, the keeper came up with a huge, leaping save. Time expired in the overtime, with the teams still knotted at 1-1.
A penalty kick shootout would determine the winner, with each team getting five attempts. 'Horns' keeper Chris Smith made critical saves on the Mustangs' first two kicks, putting his team at a huge advantage.
Lambert's Jay Patterson and Grant Ziegler scored next for the Longhorns, giving them the lead in goals (2-0) and kicks remaining.
Meadowcreek converted its two kicks, tying the PK score at 2-2. Lambert, however, had two kicks remaining; Meadowcreek, only one. Goals on both Lambert kicks would clinch the match.
Trey Hines was first and scored easily for a 3-2 Lambert advantage. Then, Nick Alliston stepped up and blasted the winning shot over the diving keeper-- LAMBERT 2, MEADOWCREEK 1 (4-2 PKs)!!
The fans rushed the field to congratulate their team on an unforgettable victory !!!
Saturday night, the Longhorns journey to McEachern High School, Cobb County for their final and biggest challenge....the Georgia Class 7A state championship match against the Lakeside Vikings (18-1-3) of DeKalb County, The teams have not met this season. Each has defeated common opponents, Meadowcreek, Rockdale County, Forsyth Central and Milton. Each has lost to one common opponent, North Gwinnett.
For the season, Lambert outscored its opponents, 65-7, with 15 shutouts. Lakeside has outscored its opponents. 49-13, with 10 shutouts.
Please join us IN GREAT NUMBERS Saturday at 730pm at McEachern to cheer on our terrific group of young men as they battle to repeat as CHAMPIONS OF GEORGIA 7A SOCCER! HOOK 'EM!! WIN FOREVER !!!