The ball crossed in front of Walton’s goal like a stone on a pond, bouncing off one Lambert player’s head then another and another, each a tantalizing and urgent possibility in the second or two it hung in the air.
But the ball kept skipping across the field past the goal and to a Walton defender. The Raiders cleared it to midfield, then pushed it to Lambert’s half, and the final seconds ticked off the Longhorns’ 2-1 loss Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state playoffs.
Walton (17-2-2) advanced to play the Berkmar-Pebblebrook winner in the state semifinals Tuesday. Lambert ends its season at 14-5-1.
“They’re a good team, they’re a quality team,” Lambert head coach Chris Wilson said. “I could see them going all the way.”
After a scoreless first half, Walton scored twice in a span of seven minutes in the second half. Collin Assam struck first off a corner kick in the 55th minute, rebounding a deflected save by Lambert keeper Avery Dekshenieks to break the tie. The Longhorns pushed numbers up to create more offense, but it cost them a second goal when Kasey Kureshi made a one-on-one run up the center from midfield and at the right range grounded a shot to the left side net.
“(Walton) really battled it out,” Wilson said. “We weathered it in the first half. I thought we were very organized, and we prevented a lot of stuff they wanted. I think in the second half one or two breakdowns here or there cost us a goal. And then, you know, we’ve got to push a little bit more and costs us the second goal.”
But Lambert responded. Eoin Griffiths finished a cross into the box from Christian Girard in the 69th minute to cut the Longhorns’ deficit in half. The senior sprinted in to the goal to retrieve the ball and restart play, hoping there was enough time to finish the comeback. He almost did three minutes later with a blast from dead-on, but it sailed wide right.
“We just ran out of time,” Wilson said.
The result finished off an encouraging season for Lambert, particularly after losing in the first round of the state playoffs the past three seasons.
The Longhorns’ eight seniors made sure that didn’t happen again.
“I think they’ve definitely left a mark,” Wilson said. “Winning region, reaching the (quarterfinals), coming close to going further. You never want it to end, but they played as hard as they possible could, and they gave as much as they possible could for Lambert and our team.”