At the end of a night filled with missed opportunities, Cooper Coughlin didn’t let the most important one slip away.
Coughlin sent a penalty kick into the bottom right hand corner of the net with only three minutes remaining in a second overtime period, lifting the No. 3-ranked Lambert boys soccer team to a 1-0 victory over rival South Forsyth on Tuesday at War Eagle Field.
Moments earlier, Mitch Fandos worked his way to within several yards of the right side of the net and forced the War Eagles to commit a foul to deny him a scoring opportunity.
Coughlin was one of several Longhorns (4-0, 3-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) who had missed solid scoring opportunities earlier in the game, but the junior didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity to win the game.
"He was the first guy that stepped up and said ‘I’m taking it,’" Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. "I was very proud of him [for doing] that.
"That’s leadership, and that’s why he’s one of our captains because I think ... other guys would have backed off from it feeling the pressure of overtime."
Lambert out-shot South 21-13 in regulation, but the best scoring opportunity might have belonged to the War Eagles (2-3, 0-3).
South senior Kameron Tauber beat his defender down the middle of the field and found himself with only Longhorns’ goalkeeper Jake Nelson in front of him in the 76th minute. Nelson charged out of the net to block Tauber’s first attempt from about 15 yards out, and though the forward collected the rebound and tried again, the second shot was pushed wide left.
"That’s the toughest thing as a goalkeeper, you can go forever without touching the ball [but] you’ve got to be on top of it," Wilson said. "He made a great save there ... and that’s probably the second time he’s done that in a game where he’s made a big save."
Lambert dominated the scoring opportunities in the overtime period and finally forced the War Eagles to make a mistake, but South head coach Tom Braun acknowledged that his team lost the game on the offensive end. The War Eagles have dropped their last three games and have been shut out each time.
"We knew [Lambert was] a very good squad and our kids played extremely hard and well," Braun said. "We had opportunities also. Anything can happen when you go into overtime and unfortunately we had to pull [Fandos] down. You can’t win if you can’t score, so we can’t blame any one [player]."
The Longhorns may not be dominating the same way they did when they went 23-0 and won the Class 4A state championship last year, but the victories keep coming. Lambert has now won 27 consecutive games dating back to the start of the 2012 season.
"We’re a very well-balanced team and opportunities to score will come from a lot of places. I could point to probably five guys who had a chance to score a goal [tonight] and I’m shocked that [they] didn’t go in," Wilson said.
"It’s a resilient group. ... We’re probably more fit than most teams; we wear teams down. One way or another we’ve found a way to win."
Lambert faces a tough matchup against Centennial on Friday in Roswell, while South will try to pick up its first region win on the road against Johns Creek. Both games are set to begin at 7:55 p.m.