Zebra boys soccer falls to Manchester in penalty kicks
Pickens scores off Shafer assist, but RHS’ season ends in sectional quarterfinals
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FORT WAYNE –- Rochester junior soccer player Zach Pickens sat down at midfield and just stared into space after his team’s Class 2A, Sectional 22 quarterfinal against Manchester at Canterbury School Monday.
After a record-setting season of offensive productivity, his team’s season had suffered a crushing ending.
Manchester beat RHS 2-1 in penalty kicks. After 80 minutes of regulation play and two seven-minute overtime periods, the game was tied 1-1.
Manchester then made all five of their penalty kicks while RHS made three of four.
Wade Shafer, Layne Backus and Mitchell Shafer made their penalty kicks. Pickens, who scored RHS’ only goal during regulation play and who scored a school single-season record 32 goals for the season, missed his.
Liam York, who scored Manchester’s only goal during regulation play, made the first penalty kick. Wade Shafer answered for RHS.
The left-footed Brandon Hernandez scored for Manchester. That brought up Pickens, whose shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced straight down and hit the ground twice and then rolled back. The referee ruled that Pickens’ shot did not cross the goal line.
RHS coach Trevor Brown disagreed.
“He did make it,” Brown said. “It hit the top of the bar, bounced in and bounced back out, but once it crosses the line, it’s a goal. I was standing up on the hill. You could see the grass behind it. They blew that call. Blew it. And it might have cost us the sectional. It sucks because I don’t know how they missed that. An obvious goal and the refs, they blew it. It happens sometimes, I guess.”
In the third round, Dyson Rosen scored for Manchester, and Backus connected for the Zebras.
In the fourth round, Logan Bishop buried a shot in the upper left corner for Manchester, and Mitchell Shafer tallied for RHS.
Owen Kruschwitz then converted for Manchester to end the game.
Manchester had beaten RHS 3-0 on Sept. 8 in their regular season meeting. RHS, Manchester and Maconaquah finished in a three-way tie for the Three Rivers Conference title.
Pickens scored the first goal off a Wade Shafer assist. Shafer led Pickens, who charged in from the right flank and fired a shot past Manchester goalkeeper Dillon Gish.
“Just contain them, stay in front,” Manchester coach Dave McKee said of the defensive game plan on Pickens and Wade Shafer. “One time, they didn’t stay in front … Pickens … that was a mean shot. That was a nice shot. We didn’t stay in front.”
Manchester got the equalizer from York, turning around and firing a left-footed shot for a goal in the back right corner of the net past RHS freshman keeper Parker Wallace with 7:15 left in the half.
In the second half, Eric Eikenberry couldn’t square up a shot and missed wide left after a Pickens centering feed. A Pickens attempt off a Wade Shafer feed also missed just left.
Wade Shafer also had a look at a direct kick from just outside the box, but his shot went just over the net. With about 17:30 left, Wade Shafer hit a skidding shot from the right that a Manchester defender appeared to scrape off the line. Pickens had another shot that Gish deflected away just before the final buzzer in regulation.
In the final minute of the second overtime period, Gish deflected a Pickens shot. The ball then bounced to Jude Brooks, who missed.
Pickens was involved in multiple collisions with Manchester players. The referee later presented Pickens with a yellow card with 1:22 left in regulation after a rough foul on a Manchester defender.
“We had enough chances,” Brown said. “Pickens got destroyed tonight. He got fouled and fouled and fouled and fouled. They called several fouls on him, and he just got beat up. It was kind of confusing, some of the things that they called fouls on him when he just got wrecked. So it was strange. Strange. But we still created enough chances, and we didn’t capitalize.
“Honestly, they created a lot of chances too. Parker made a lot of crazy saves. They cleared one off the goal line. It was an even game. Both teams played really well.”
Ultimately though, it came down to penalty kicks, where Manchester didn’t miss.
“I thought the whole team played really well,” Brown said. “I’m proud of them. We’ve got a lot of young, young guys. PKs with a freshman goalie is tough. And all their penalties were solid. They earned them. They were good finishes.
“You hate to lose, but at least it was a good game and competitive and hard fought both ways.”
Manchester defeated Culver Academy in penalty kicks in the 2019 sectional final. Though it might seem like they have a track record of success in penalty kicks, it’s not because they work at it, according to McKee.
“We’ve never practiced penalty kicks in the 17 years I’ve coached,” McKee said. “I survey my players the last few minutes of the game and see which ones look the most relaxed. Because the ones that are hyped up are going to shoot high or wide. And then I always tell my goalie, ‘This is not on you. Don’t be nervous. It’s not on you. They’re expected to make every shot.’”
Manchester will play No. 19 Fort Wayne Canterbury on their home field at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals. Canterbury eliminated Culver Academy 1-0 on a Donovan Doolittle goal in the first game Monday.
Tippecanoe Valley and No. 5 Fort Wayne Concordia, who received byes, will meet at 7 p.m. in the second semifinal. The sectional final is set for 7 p.m. Saturday.