Lady Dogs win a wild one in OT

Apr. 17—Scoreless after regulation. Scoreless after one overtime. The first-round state playoff game between the GMC Prep and McIntosh County Academy girls soccer teams seemed destined for penalty kicks Tuesday.

The scoreboard on GMC's Robertson Field still read 0-0 with eight minutes left to play in the second overtime period.

Then came a torrent of four goals, first by the host Lady Dogs at the 7:39 mark to go up 1-0. Not going away quietly, the visiting Buccaneers got the equalizer on a penalty kick only two minutes later after GMC was whistled for a handball inside the 18-yard box. That scenario basically duplicated itself on the other end of the field at about four minutes to go, but sophomore Jackie Wilson's goal came as a free kick at the top of the penalty area to make it 2-1 Lady Dogs. Junior Saiya Patel provided insurance at 2:58 remaining, giving her a second goal on the night and GMC Prep girls soccer a playoff win at 3-1.

"It was absolutely wild," Lady Dogs coach Bobby Jaworski said of those last seven and a half minutes. "The emotions were crazy."

The Lady Dogs held the upper hand with more scoring chances through regulation against the coastal Georgia school in the playoff opener. An inability to cash in sent the match to overtime where GHSA rules stipulate that two 10-minute halves be played. Whoever is up after those 20 minutes is the winner. If the game remains tied at that point, penalty kicks (PKs), a series of one-on-ones between shooters and the goalies, are the determining factor.

PKs weren't necessary Tuesday thanks to the heroics of Wilson and Patel in that second overtime. With just under eight minutes to go, Jaworski was urging his team to move the ball forward into the attacking end of the field. He hadn't quite completed his sentence when Wilson sent a beautiful ball from beyond midfield to the streaking Patel, who was dashing toward the west-end goal and GMC's Usery Hall like she was late for class. It was her, one defender, and McIntosh goalie Kennedy Morey. Patel won the battle by burying a shot toward the lower left corner of the net for the night's first goal.

Jaworski was asked if he felt like the game was over at that point.

"I did because I didn't really see anything materializing for their attack," he said. "So our plan was to defend and see the game out."

Well, best-laid plans often go awry, and the Buccaneers (9-7-3) weren't ready to see their season end. They found another gear and got the ball down inside box where, as it was bouncing around, it was touched by a GMC hand. McIntosh senior Hailee Stevens took the ensuing penalty kick and shot arm-high to the right to tie the contest up at 1-1 with 5:35 to play.

In a somewhat cruel twist of fate for the McIntosh side, a similar thing happened at the other end of the field only a minute later. The difference was the Buccaneers' handball occurred just barely outside the 18-yard box, meaning Wilson's attempt was a free kick. The whistle outside the penalty area meant she was six yards further out than a PK while also facing a wall of players in addition to the McIntosh keeper.

Didn't matter. The GMC coaches had all the confidence in Wilson's ability, and she made them look good by finding an opening to the left that was the gateway to her 10th goal of the season.

"Jackie had the angle on that left side," Jaworski said. "The fact that she was able to get that shot and bury it was awesome."

Wilson soared half the length of the field, arms stretched wide with teammates coming to celebrate the go-ahead goal. Patel gave a little more breathing room with 2:58 left, assisted by Wilson again. That one took the wind out of the Buccaneers' sails.

"They showed some grit," Jaworski said of the team. "We haven't had any overtime games to speak of, and some of the girls didn't even step off the field. To be able to go for 100 minutes and play in a game like that, that showed a lot of heart. I'm so happy for the girls."

The victory advances GMC (6-10-1) on to the second round of state where it will face top-ranked Portal High School (12-2-1) on the road Tuesday, April 23.

After receiving a first-round bye, the GMC boys now have their first playoff assignment. They'll host area foe Washington-Wilkes 6 p.m. Wednesday.