Flexing and yelling loudly, Andrew Holt’s teammates mobbed him near the goal.
And for good reason. Holt just saved the day after 90 minutes of physical soccer with no relief against King’s. South Whidbey’s senior goalie saved three shootout kicks and allowed none through four shots in the Falcons’ 1-0 win on Wednesday.
“I knew if we went down 1-0 it’d be over,” Holt said. “I had to keep the playoff picture alive.”
“That’s the best game I’ve ever coached,” said Falcon head coach Joel Gerlach.
The late-game heroics came at the right time for South Whidbey. And it was fitting that the Falcons’ defense carried the team after a 5-1 handling by Archbishop Murphy the week earlier. Plus, with the school on spring break and a few players injured, South Whidbey started the match with only one reserve player, junior James Itaya.
“Outside midfielders and midfielders, they really need subs because they’re running so hard all game,” said Falcon senior Cameron Coupe. “And that had an affect on why they started to put the pressure on.”
A collision while going for a header knocked Falcon senior Darby Hayes, one of the team’s leading scorers, out of the game with a possible concussion. South Whidbey played the second half and two, five-minute bonus periods without a single substitution.
Both teams bumped, slid and pushed each other.
Late in the second bonus period, Falcon senior Stephen Lyons challenged Knights sophomore Cameron Duncan for the ball. As he went for the ball near the sideline, Lyons bumped into Duncan and knocked him to the turf. When Duncan stood up, he shoved Lyons and was given a yellow card — an official warning. King’s coach Aaron Harrington removed Duncan from the game for about one minute, but put him back in for penalty kicks before time ran out.
“We weren’t getting really upset about it,” Coupe said. “We were the ones that would take it and they were getting mad, arguing with each other. None of our guys were about to push someone, we were ready to play hard because the refs weren’t calling anything.”
South Whidbey started the showdown with senior Connor McCauley. His shot missed high.
Holt, feeling the pressure of the 1A schools’ face-off, stepped into the goal. King’s sent freshman Forrest Perry for its first attempt, a low roller to the left corner of the goal. Standing 6-foot-3, low corner shots are admittedly a challenge for Holt. But not that night. He lunged and snatched the ball into his chest.
South Whidbey struck first when Coupe drove the ball into the lower left corner past Knight keeper Logan Griffis. The Falcons erupted at the midfield line and sent their two-dozen or so fans into a frenzy.
“You walk up, set it down, take a breath and hope it goes in,” Coupe said.
King’s next shot bounced out off the crossbar, giving South Whidbey a 1-0 lead in penalty kicks through two shots. Then the Falcons padded their lead with senior Trey Adams scoring his shot in the same location as Coupe.
Duncan, previously booked with the yellow card, stepped to the 12-yard mark and took his shot. Holt snatched that one from the air and into his chest. Cue cheers, Holt’s head bobbing and yells.
Falcon freshman Andy Zisette’s shot was saved by Griffis, setting up a potential game-ending save for Holt. And he delivered.
Knights forward Taylor Moe booted his shot low and to the right, forcing Holt to dive left. And Holt caught that one, too. Not one of the four nearly point-blank shots by King’s went by Holt.
“That last one, I was just in the zone and went for it,” Holt said.
The game belonged to Holt. He saved a penalty kick in the box by Duncan in the 75th minute to preserve the regulation shutout.
“Usually I look at their plant foot because the direction it’s pointing is the direction they’ll kick,” Holt said. “But with that one, I just wanted to go right really bad and he happened to kick right.”
The victory set up South Whidbey for a possible top seed in the District 1 tournament. Having beaten King’s twice and Coupeville once on the road, South Whidbey needs to beat Coupeville to own the Cascade Conference’s top 1A seed in the playoffs.