by Chris Lee
Grace Christian Academy’s storybook soccer season came to an end in the TSSAA Boys’ Soccer A-AA Playoffs on Tuesday night, thanks to a pair of improbable goals from Page’s Nick Burns.
Burns scored the game’s first goal off a pass that traveled half the length of the field, then added one more just one second before halftime, as Page hung on to beat the Lions, 3-2, at GCA.
GCA was led by freshman Kaden Nordhoff, who scored both Lion goals as Page held striker Michael Jones, the Lions’ leading scorer, in check.
Page’s Austin Cook scored with 6:28 left, giving the Patriots what seemed to be a safe, two-goal lead.
But just 1:14 later, Nordhoff won a scramble after Page goalie Wilson West deflected a Jones shot from the left side, and kicked it inside the right post.
That energized the home crowd, but Page hung on and didn’t allow GCA good scoring chances from there.
Page coach Nate Clapp felt he got less than his team’s best effort, but his squad survives to face Christ Presbyterian Academy, which beat Fairview on Tuesday night.
“I didn’t think that we controlled the game,” Clapp said. “[GPA is] a good team, and they fought hard tonight, but in the postseason, we want to win everything. We want to get better throughout the postseason, and we’ve got to keep the ball better than we did tonight. It was awful.”
Key in Page’s night was Andrew Metkler, who assisted the first goal, but also drew some of the defensive assignment on the lightning-quick Jones, who entered Tuesday with an astounding 68 goals on the season.
“We had two center backs out tonight, so we just dropped a really fast player in,” Clapp said, when asked about defending Jones. “Andrew’s one of our strong players. He’s played center back before. We dropped him in back there, and we had our only midfielder know where he’s at, and they saw what happens when they didn’t do what we asked him to do, and pay attention to where he was.”
Metkler had the play of the night to set up the game’s first goal. The senior was about 10 feet on the Page side of midfield when he lofted a high pass to Burns, who received it in the box on the other end.
“I get sort of antsy because I’m not a center back, but I saw Nick wide-open with the outside back,” Metkler said. “There was enough space, I just hit it, it landed perfectly, he took a great touch, hit it a second time—goal.”
“We made eye contact before it,” Burns said,” so I knew it was coming.”
The second goal came off a throw-in from the left side of the field. Burns was in the right place at the right time, and kicked one low and out of reach of junior goalie Alex Nordhoff, stunning the crowd with just a tick left before the break.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Grace Christian coach David DeFatta said. “I thought we controlled possession of the game. A couple opportunities, we missed. I think it’s a completely different game if we don’t give up the goal at the end of the half. Momentum switched in favor at that point, going into halftime.”
The younger Nordhoff kept GCA in it late. At the 24:20 mark of the second half, he found himself all alone about 25 yards from the net, and blasted one past keeper Wilson West to cut the lead in half.
“He got a ball, and he saw an opening, and he ripped a shot, and it was a great shot,” DeFatta said.
Late in the game, Jones got one of his few good looks, and drove one that deflected off West and to his left. Nordhoff was in the right place at the right time, and kicked it just inside the right post.
GPA’s hopes for an equalizer rested on Jones, a senior, who got his touches late. But as was the case much of the night, there was always a defender on the ball with one or two lurking just behind.
“The last couple of games, people have tried to double-, triple-mark him, and it’s been fun to watch him grow as a player, and other guys step up and score goals,” DeFatta said.
It was an emotional ending of the remarkable high school career of Jones, whose brother Samuel, a junior, also played well on Tuesday. They’re two of eight siblings adopted by a local family, and they have helped build a program at a school that didn’t even exist until 2009.
Michael’s next game will come at Trevecca, which he’ll attend on a soccer scholarship.
“Three years ago when he came here, you almost thought it would never end, “DeFatta said. “But the last 10 seconds as it clicked off, it almost made me realize his time here is done.
“But what he’s done to build our program is phenomenal. He’ll always be a part of our program.”
Page had a third goal wiped out by an offsides in the 28th minute of the second half, denying Metker another assist.
It was a largely uneventful first half until Metkler’s spectacular pass got things started.
Before that, Burns missed a header that appeared headed for the crossbar, and Nordhoff got a finger on it. Off the ensuing corner kick, Colton Heyen also clanked a header off the bar at nearly the same spot.
Opportunities were few for Jones, but he got one minute later inside the box off a pass near the left post, but West made an aggressive move to close and deflected his shot out of bounds.
Jones had his best first-half chance a couple minutes after Burns’s first goal, moving in from the right side of the box and blasting a shot that West saved after a short dive to his left.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Page High School goal keeper as Hunter Spivey instead of Wilson West. Williamson Source has edited the article to portray the correct name.