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Soccer: South boys make claim to top spot in region with win over Lambert
The South Forsyth boys soccer team celebrates after beating Lambert in a penalty kick shootout on March 23, 2018 at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren

By Steven Watkins

For the Forsyth County News

Trailing 4-3 in penalty kicks with the game, a perfect region record and sole possession of first place on the line, Lambert High School’s Campbell Wilson stood at the edge of the 12 yards separating him from region-rival South Forsyth’s goalkeeper Aarnav Sandhu and waited for the official’s whistle.

The first-place Longhorns entered Friday night’s matchup at South Forsyth having not yet allowed a single goal against a region opponent. And after maintaining clear control throughout a dominant first half and with a 3-0 lead early in the second, all indications pointed to more of the same.

Three unanswered-South goals and two scoreless overtimes later, Wilsons’s kick sailed wide left, the South sideline erupted in celebration and Lambert’s previously firm control of the region suddenly loosened.

“We were totally outplayed in the first half, and we got our butts handed to us,” South head coach Tom Braun said. “We made some adjustments at halftime, we fought back one goal at a time and we were fortunate to go to kicks, where it’s sudden death.”

Lambert leapt to a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes thanks to goals by Logan Racine and Kyler Darsey, and didn’t concede so much as a shot until the 16th minute of play. Hayden Fontana’s goal early in the second half widened the lead to 3-0, and the Longhorns appeared to be on their way to a seventh-straight region win.

Just under ten minutes into the half, South forward Chris Mendelson dribbled a deflected ball in the visiting box, fired a shot and scored the first goal of any of Lambert’s 2018 region opponents.

Twenty minutes later, Trevor Byrne headed in South’s second goal, pulling the War Eagles within one and punctuating what had gradually become a clear momentum shift in South’s favor throughout the second half.

With 5:42 left to play, South midfielder Ryan Fierle kicked a high, looping shot from twenty yards out that sailed over the outstretched fingers of the Lambert goalkeeper and into the net.

“It was amazing to come back from three goals,” said an out of breath Fierle after the game.

Fierle would out do his game-tying goal on South’s final penalty kick, breaking up a 6-6 tie and sending Lambert keeper Jackson Carter lunging in the wrong direction.

“I just took a deep breath and just told myself, ‘You can do this,’” Fierle said. “You’ve practiced plenty of times, and just execute it through the post.”

Fierle’s game-winning kick was made possible in part by one of Sandhu’s two saves during PK’s.

“We all thought we were out of it, but we just didn’t give up and we came back,” Sandhu said. “Our Penalty takers did their job, and we got the win.”

South Forsyth's Maria Walsh shoots on goal during the War Eagles' game against Lambert on March 23, 2018 at South Forsyth High School. - photo by Ben Hendren
South girls 1, Lambert 0

In the first game the South Forsyth Girls also took full advantage of an opportunity to even scores with a region rival, beating Lambert 1-0 thanks to Lauren Murray’s goal early in the second half on a high-effort cross by Maria Walsh.

“It was a slot-six, and we do it every day at practice,” Murray said.

“Lauren and I work up top together a good amount, and I knew that she was going to be there,” Walsh added. “Even if she isn’t there, somebody will be running up behind, and she was there and she got it.”

Like the boys game after them, South’s win evens both their season head-to-head and region records with the Longhorns.

“We were just able to execute and put the ball in the back of the net,” Braun said. “That’s the difference.”