Granby " Panther soccer team upsets Weld Central in OT thriller | SkyHiNews.com

Granby " Panther soccer team upsets Weld Central in OT thriller

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

In its first home game of the 2008 season, the Middle Park High’s boys soccer team beat Weld Central, one of the 3A division’s top teams, by a score of 2-1 last Saturday.

With the game tied 1-1 at the end of regulation play, the Panthers pulled off the victory by scoring the winning goal in the second overtime period.

The win by Middle Park was an upset for the Weld Central’s Rebels, who had an outstanding regular season last year, posting a 14-1 record. It was also payback for the Panthers who fell 4-3 to Weld Central during the 2007 season.

“This was not only our first home game, but a quality win over a very good team,” said Panther coach Shawn McElroy. “It was a fun, exciting game to watch.”

Saturday’s victory over Weld Central was a superb recovery for the Panthers, who suffered a devastating 6-0 shutout loss in the season-opener to Eagle Valley the previous weekend.

“We played a zillion times better than we did in that first game,” McElroy said. “We had some good practices over the past week. Our players worked hard at their skills and teamwork, and it paid off.”

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Saturday’s home game opened with both teams battling for possession, but neither being able to penetrate the other’s defenses to score.

That changed 30 minutes into the first half when Panther junior Elliott Levett broke away, dribbled the left side of the field and then made a well-aimed cross kick to senior Joey Coucke who “headed” the ball into the net for Middle Park’s first goal.

“Elliott made a super cross kick and Joey was in the perfect place to head the ball,” McElroy said. “We’d been working on that play all week and it worked perfectly.”

Middle Park held its 1-0 lead well into the second half with the Panther defense fending off all of the Weld Central’s attempts on its net. However, with 10 minutes left on the game clock, the Panthers gave up a foul 30 yards out. The penalty kick went right under the bar to score the tying point.

“It was a well-placed kick,” McElroy said. “There was nothing our keeper could do to have stopped it.”

With the game now tied, both teams battled to score before regulation time ran out. Forced into overtime, neither team succeeded in the first period, but the decisive play came 1-1/2 minutes into the second overtime period.

“Each team had its chances, but they couldn’t get the ball into the net until that second overtime,” McElroy said. “Then we executed that set play just perfectly once again.”

This time, it was Middle Park’s Senior Captain Robert Johnson who made a free kick that sent the ball over the “wall” put up the Weld Central’s defenders. As the ball arched over them, Coucke was once again in position to “head” the ball into the net for a second time.

“Joey was playing defense in our first game, but we moved him up to forward for this game,” McElroy said. “He made two quality headers to score both of our goals out of three attempts. You can’t ask for much better than that.”

Also coming in for praise was Panther junior Ben Welcome, who made a “critical save” in the final 10 minutes of the second half that kept the game tied. In addition, McElroy commended Elliott Levett’s overall performance in the game.

“Elliott drove the other team nuts,” McElroy said. “He kept changing from side to side. He just wore them out.”

Coach McElroy especially wanted to point out the contributions of the team’s backfield defenders ” junior Bartosz Koczera, junior Connor Barnes and senior Tim Leman.

“These back three did a great job,” he said. “For the most part, they didn’t give the other team many opportunities.”

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