It was a back-and-forth affair Wednesday in the second round of the Class 7A state playoffs, but the combination of Lambert’s Zane Ziegler and Kyler Darsey proved to be the difference for the Longhorns as they advance to the quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over Hillgrove.
“In the playoffs, you’ve got to fight,” Lambert coach Chris Wilson said. “If you don’t have any fight, you have no business being here. I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
Lambert was up 1-0 and 2-1 only to have Hillgrove score to tie the game on each occasion.
It was eight minutes after Hillgrove tied the game 2-2 that Ziegler made a hard run down the left-field sideline before crossing it through the box for Darsey to connect to retake the lead for good with 15 minutes left.
“I saw a ton of space behind their left back,” Ziegler said. “So I decided to go with my right foot, took a big touch into space.”
“I saw (Ziegler) take the space,” Darsey said. “So I assumed he was going to cross it, so I cut into near post.”
“I saw Kyler (Darsey) making a near-post run,” Ziegler said. “Hit it right in front of him and (he) tapped it in. Brilliant goal.”
All of this happened while Hillgrove was playing with only 10 men because, with six minutes remaining in the first half, the Hawks’ Gray Morgan received a straight red card after taking down Lambert’s Dean Bogarde on a breakaway.
The play resulted in a penalty kick, and after much debate from the Hillgrove side about the controversial call, Lambert senior Eoin Griffiths converted the penalty kick to give the Longhorns a 2-1 lead going into the half.
“For penalties, one of the worst things is waiting,” Griffiths said. “Having it being drawn out and drawn out because you just want to get it over with. It’s all mind games, so with all the drama going on, it was tough.
“Basically, you just pick your corner, you don’t change your mind and it went in. Luckily.”
Lambert started the scoring 15 minutes into the contest when Logan Racine headed a corner kick from Trey Hines into the goal for the 1-0 advantage.
Hillgrove tied the game with 10 minutes left until halftime when Zack Neely knocked one past Lambert goalkeeper Avery Dekshenieks.
After Griffiths penalty kick put Lambert back on top, Hillgrove once again came back to tie it. With 24 minutes remaining in the game and the Hawks playing with 10 men, Hillgrove’s A.J. Jallow was on the receiving end of a free kick from 30 yards out, dead center.
“I give Hillgrove a ton of credit to be down a man,” Wilson said. “When you’re up a man and up a goal, you kind of try to defend and I tell you what, (Hillgrove) played a great game.”
With the win, Lambert advances to the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2013.
“Every round, every win, you gain a little bit more,” Wilson said. “You like winning and at this point, anybody can win.”