The boys varsity soccer team narrowly avoided an early exit yesterday from their CIF playoff run, defeating St. Anthony 4-1 in penalties after regular time saw the teams tied at 1-1.
The Griffins dominated the early stages of the game, moving the ball efficiently around their opponent’s box, but the Saints’ center backs held strong.
The opposition’s defensive wall finally cracked when the ball fell to sophomore Hal Rothwell on the edge of the box who hit a lofted ball into the top left corner, leaving the poorly-positioned goalkeeper clutching at air.
The game’s momentum shifted, though, at half time, as St. Anthony came out with nothing to lose and began hammering the Griffin penalty box.
This bombardment brought out the star of the game, junior goalkeeper Jeremy Popowitz.
Solid in the first 60 minutes, Popowitz made several saves in the dying embers of the match to keep the Griffins in the lead.
Unfortunately, the Saints broke through in the final 20 seconds after missed opportunities from the Griffins saw the opposition’s star midfielder receive the ball midfield and power through the defense to finish his run in the top right corner.
Tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation, the game went in to extra time, where neither team could put the game to bed, resulting in a penalty shoot out.
Un-phased by his opponents’ late goal, Popowitz saved St. Anthony’s second and third penalties, after they missed their first and scored the last. The Griffins tucked away all four of their strikes, with clinical finishes by juniors Cameron Mir and Connor MacDermott, freshman Lucas Guarachi, and senior striker Daniel Vlessing.
With the last penalty finished off to seal the win, players and fans charged the field to celebrate with game-saver Popowitz.
The boys will face Dunn high school away tomorrow in the quarterfinals of D7 CIF competition.