Prep Soccer Playoffs: Salisbury 3, East Lincoln 2, sudden death
By David Shaw
Postseason soccer has a way of presenting ordinary players with extraordinary opportunities. Just ask Salisbury’s David Simons.
The junior defender may or may not have been out of position when he scored with 1:53 remaining in sudden-death overtime Saturday night, giving the Hornets a 3-2 third-round win over visiting East Lincoln.
“I was just chasing the ball up-field and got on a roll,” Simons said after netting his first varsity goal. “I was trying to push forward, keep the momentum going. All of a sudden I was in the right place at the right time, I guess.”
Was he ever. Simons’ goal lifted Salisbury (23-1-1) into the fourth round of the 2A state playoffs and Monday’s 6 p.m. home game against Shelby.
“The way the match was going,” coach Tom Sexton said, “we figured, ‘Why not us?’ Of all things, we had the entire field spread with offensive players ó and the ball comes to David’s feet. And David beats a kid and parks it. And as soon as he did that I went, ‘See, that’s that one magic play that carries you to the next round.’ ”
None of it would have mattered had Salisbury not rallied from a 2-1 first-overtime deficit. East Lincoln (18-7-1) went ahead for the first time when Chad Saiter’s long throw-in was inadvertently deflected past SHS keeper Connor Miller for an own goal.
“That hurt, but at that point it was either get back in this one or go home,” senior fullback Wes McNeely said. “We just started thinking about being a team, not individuals.”
“We were down, but we weren’t even thinking about losing,” midfielder B.J. Woods added after playing a solid two-way match. “We haven’t lost on this field all season and we weren’t gonna lose tonight. We just had to hang in there.”
Despite losing three starting players to injuries, East coach Jason Dragoon felt the Mustangs had enough fuel left in their tanks to prevail.
“We thought we had it,” he said. “But then the guys just sat back too much. We didn’t keep the pressure on and they got some chances.”
Salisbury’s Gerardo Sosa got a pivotal one with 4:04 remaining in the second OT. He settled a pass from teammate Kenny Bonilla and pushed a 10-foot shot under East keeper Austin Putnam to tie the score.
“It was a little ping-pong play,” Sosa explained. “I really wanted to score because the own goal was (partially) my fault. It seems like every game something happens to spark us. Lots of things happened this game.”
Woods nearly ended the match midway through the first sudden-death period when he blasted a 35-yard shot over a screen and on goal. Putnam somehow paddled the ball over his head, off the right post and then the crossbar for the best of his 16 saves.
“That No. 69 (Woods) had a fabulous match,” said Dragoon. “You take him off the field and we win.”
Salisbury remained in attack mode as the clock ticked down. More than 108 minutes had been played when Simons emphatically pumped a rebound past the sprawling Putnam, setting off a wild celebration.
“I never thought I’d score a goal that important,” he said. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
It did ó and Woods knows why.
“Miracles can happen at any time,” he indicated. “(Sexton) always tells us to be ready for our moment. David Simons had his moment tonight.”
NOTES: Paul Kollie gave the Hornets a 1-0 lead with 17:06 remaining in the first half. East Lincoln pulled even 10 minutes later when Tyler Mattner buried a rebound. … Salisbury outshot East 28-13, including 13-2 in overtime and sudden death. … Shelby (20-3-1) advanced with a 2-1 victory over Cuthbertson. … Sexton, assistant coach Matt Parrish and Salisbury athletic director Joe Pinyan spent nearly eight hours Saturday preparing the field after last week’s downpour and a home football game on Friday.