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In what became a theme throughout Bay Rivers District soccer Thursday, a crucial soccer game needed penalty kicks to decide a winner.
York and Lafayette battled to a 3-3 stalemate in regulation during the Conference 25 championship game at Bailey Field before York took the title with a 4-3 win after penalty kicks.
By the time Bailey McClure's penalty kick found the back of the net, the York soccer team began rushing him in celebration of their newly earned Conference 25 championship.
The scene at the end of the contest was a far cry from that of the opening five minutes of play.
Lafayette opened the game scoring two goals within the first five minutes of play. The first goal came with 37:19 left in the first half as Reeves Trott threw the ball into Matthew Beatty, who ripped the ball into the right side of the net for the game's opening score.
Less than two minutes later, the Rams got on the board again. This time, Jason Eckenrode played a ball on the ground into the center of the box, where Trott was waiting to finish the shot to give the Rams a quick 2-0 lead.
Watching his team fall behind 2-0 early, York Coach Ryan Hagerty kept his team focused and in the game, reminding them there was plenty of time left to come back.
With the momentum trending in Lafayette's favor, York caught a break and drew a penalty kick with 33:59 left in the first half.
York's Max Poelker stepped to the penalty spot and slotted the ball into the lower-left corner of the net to pull the Falcons within one goal.
"The PK was a game changer for them," Lafayette Coach Brian Sorrell said.
With just over five minutes elapsed since York's first goal, the Falcons struck again as Poelker deflected a ball to the feet of Cameron Dail, who shook two defenders with his back to the net, cut to the right and and fired the ball into the left side of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
York continued rolling, scoring its third consecutive goal in a span of eight minutes when Garrett Gonzalez redirected a ball to McClure in the box, who placed his shot between the legs of Lafayette goalkeeper David Domalski to put the Falcons up 3-2.
After the barrage of goals by both teams, the scoring stalled for the remainder of the first half.
Coming out of the break, Lafayette came out aggressively and tied the game up less than five minutes into the second half.
Justin Wilson collected the ball roughly 20 yards away from net and delivered a beautiful shot bending into the lower-right corner of the net past York goalkeeper Jacob Reimers to knot the game at 3-3.
Both York and Lafayette remained aggressive throughout the second half, though neither team broke through for the remainder of regulation and sent the contest heading into overtime.
York had the best scoring opportunity in the opening overtime period, but the attempt was shut down thanks to a diving save by Domalski.
In the second overtime, Wilson made an attempt to notch his second goal of the game but saw his shot turned away from net.
Later in the second overtime period, Lafayette defender Denzel Speed tripped while attempting to collect a cleared ball from the offensive end. Speed regained his footing after falling to the turf and cleared the ball before giving up a breakaway opportunity to York.
The last legitimate scoring opportunity from either team came in the fourth overtime, which was a golden-goal period. A golden-goal period means the first team to score wins the game.
York's Karsten Faciszewski delivered a cross from the left side of the field that was misplayed by Domalski. The ball bounced past Domalski, but was also misplayed by Gonzalez in front of a wide-open net.
With four overtime periods down, the game was sent to penalty kicks.
The penalty shootout began with five consecutive makes – three from Lafayette and two from York.
York's Cole Hawkins stepped to the penalty spot and ripped a shot to the right side of the goal. Domalski guessed correctly and turned the shot away, giving Lafayette an advantage.
On the next attempt, Speed attempted to place his penalty kick into the upper portion of the net but ended up overshooting the goal completely.
Faciszewski stepped into the box and beat Domalski to his right, tying the shootout at 3-3.
Beatty came to the penalty spot with a chance to put the pressure on York's final penalty taker, McClure. However, like Speed, Beatty sent his shot sailing over the crossbar.
With the game up for grabs, McClure knew he had an opportunity to close out the game in favor of the Falcons.
"I've got to make it," McClure said of his mindset after watching Beatty's kick miss. "Everyone was going right, so I didn't know whether to go left or right. I just picked right because I always go there."
McClure's kick found the back of the netting on the right side, sparking a celebration from the York team and fans. Within seconds, McClure was streaking shirtless and jumping into the stands to celebrate with York fans.
Moments later at midfield, York players hoisted the Conference 25 championship trophy.
"If you've coached long enough, sometimes you're on the good side and sometime you're the bad side," Hagerty said. "I'm just glad I'm on the good side this time."
Both Lafayette (11-4-2) and York (15-2-2) will continue their postseasons in the 3A East tournament.
York 3, Lafayette 3 (York wins 4-3 in penalty kicks)
Goals: York (Max Poelker, Cameron Dail, Bailey McClure), Lafayette (Matthew Beatty, Reeves Trott, Justin Wilson)
Assists: York (Max Poelker, Garrett Gonzalez), Lafayette (Reeves Trott, Jason Eckenrode)