Patrick Kelly knew something was wrong as soon as the ball left his foot.
After taking a critical foul in the box early in double overtime, Kelly readied for the ensuing penalty kick, with the junior holding South Forsyth’s chances at a comeback win over West Forsyth on his shoulders.
“I was feeling all the pressure,” Kelly said. “I wanted to take it, though. I feel like I earned it there.”
But when he ran up and kicked the ball toward the net, West Forsyth goalkeeper Liam Badger wasn’t fooled, diving to his right to make the save. But while Kelly’s initial kick wasn’t exactly what he wanted, his quick thinking transformed a potentially wasted opportunity into a golden one.
stay still after his kick, and when the ball bounced off Badger right back to
him, he capitalized, running up and kicking it into the right side of the net
to put the War Eagles ahead for the first time. Kelly’s goal was ultimately all
South needed in the last nine minutes, as it secured a 2-1 comeback win its
Region 5-7A opener on Friday night.
“I think it just speaks a lot for our boys that they didn't put their head down, they kept their composure, came back and battled,” South boys coach Cheré Thomas said. “(They) played harder the second half and really possessed the game the whole second. I'm just extremely proud of how hard they worked.”
Possession was about even early on, but it was the Wolverines who capitalized first, with Aidan Meinert getting a step on South defenders and connecting for a goal to give West a 1-0 lead with 20:23 left in the first. The score stayed that way until the half, as South just wasn’t able to get into a groove early.
“It was very frustrating, the first half, just knowing our potential and what we're capable of doing,” Thomas said. “We came out really flat in the first half, and I think it really took us getting through the first 25 minutes of the game to settle into our game.”
But once they did, it was only a matter of time before the War Eagles finished their chances. South was aggressive for most of the second half, and West was on its heels.
“It's so hard when you're having to play defense for that long,” West boys coach Chad Davenport said. “The odds are you're going to just misplay a ball, not play it back correctly … something's going to happen. If you stay in your defensive end longer than you're supposed to, good teams are going to score.”
And with just 6:29 left in regulation, after multiple missed chances, South finally broke through when Sunny Inakolu’s 40-yard shot hit the top of the crossbar and dropped into West’s net, tying the match at 1-1 and setting War Eagles up for their eventual overtime victory.
“He said, ‘All I did was just kick it, coach. I didn't know where it was going,’” Thomas said of Inakolu with a laugh.
South’s schedule only gets tougher from here. They’ll play defending Class 7A state champion Lambert next, and the War Eagles hope Friday’s win is the springboard they need as they go through their tough region slate.
“It adds a lot of momentum for us going forward, with Lambert and Central next week, obviously,” Kelly said. “It’s a good way to start the season — I think we can obviously improve.”