by Chris Lee
Page goalie Wilson West led his team in the game until forward Andrew Metkler could win it.
West had 10 saves, and Metkler scored the game’s only goal with just under one minute left in the second overtime, as Page defeated Jackson North Side, 1-0, in the second overtime period of the quarterfinal round of the TSSAA Class A-AA State Soccer Tournament at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro on Tuesday evening.
Page players and their coach, Nathaniel Clapp, felt it wasn’t the team’s best effort. But it was good enough to advance to the semifinals, where the Patriots will play Christian Academy of Knoxville at 6:30 on Field No. 3 of the Siegel Soccer Complex on Wednesday.
“We fell asleep a few times on defense,” Clapp said. “If (West) hadn’t done what he’d done, and stayed as focused as he was, we definitely wouldn’t be playing tomorrow.”
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” Mekler said of West, “and he’s the reason we won the game.”
At the game’s 99:05 mark, Metkler, working between a pair of defenders in the middle of the field near the 18, found the net off an Ethan Henderson assist from the right side.
“It was probably the most frustrating game I’ve ever been in before, because it really wasn’t soccer,” said Metkler, who finally connected on his sixth shot of the game. “We were working on the through ball because it was there, but we were just getting bad touches—a couple that I should have had, mis-hits, everything.
“We just beat them on a counter, got it down the wing, and then Ethan played a great ball behind their defense. I just took a touch, hit it, and it came off.”
Page, already down a man entering overtime thanks to a pair of yellow cards to star forward Nick Burns, then had to hold on for dear life in the final 44 seconds as Mekler, too, picked up a second yellow card, which put him out of the game.
North Side’s Salvador Damazo put a header on goal with 35 seconds left, but West saved that one, too.
West’s saves were not only clutch, but they came in a variety of ways, some with high degrees of difficulty.
He leapt to save one from the left side at the game’s 67:18 mark. Not two minutes later, JNS’s Rodrico Atilano tried to get one inside the left post, but West was there again.
Barely three minutes after that, there was a deflection on a corner kick at 72:01. Twenty-three seconds later, West went to the ground to take away another great look by Damazo.
There was even a nifty kick-save in the second half that would make Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous, one that West felt was going to sneak inside the right post if he hadn’t made the play.
“He’s done a fantastic job,” Clapp said. “He’s a senior and he’s really, really come on in the last two weeks even more. Today showed it.”
“I wasn’t going home. I’m a senior, and that’s a field we’ve lost on before, and I wasn’t going home today,” West said.
Metkler was the team’s only forward for stretches of the second half. While Page was able to get the ball to him time and time again, often, with long passes down the middle of the field, Metkler just couldn’t convert until his sixth shot, which was one of just two on goal for the senior.
“We were countering the whole game, because they were pushed up so far. We were full-speed attacking, but, they just parked the bus, and it was physically exhausting,” Mekler said. “We were sprinting the field, and nothing was coming off.”
After a frustrated Mekler picked up his first yellow card at 94:56, Clapp sat him down for a moment, knowing he needed his best down the stretch.
“We were down a man, and we needed him to cover more ground,” Clapp said. “We knew space would be available, and every time, when we had all our guys out there for some reason, we failed to get the ball there fast enough.”
“We were getting the ball there fast enough (late). We knew he’d be open, and it would come.”
Mekler was upset when he came off the field after the second yellow card, one he felt was unfair.
“I cleared the ball with about a minute left, and (a North Side player) slid in, studs up, straight into my ankle,” Metkler said. “He yelled when he hit the ground, and I said, ‘Are you okay?’ and the ref from 40 yards away gave me a yellow card. … That’s how soccer goes, I guess.”
As exhausting as Page’s Tuesday was, CAK’s game with Boyd Buchanan went even longer. That contest, which started at the same time just across the complex, lasted until the Warriors won, 2-1, in a shootout.
This was Page’s first win in a state tournament game in just its third appearance.