PROCTOR RAIDERS ADVANCE WITH DOUBLE OT-DOUBLE PENALTY KICK WIN!
Raider nation celebration!
The storybook season for the boys Proctor Raiders soccer team (16-3-1) continued Saturday afternoon at Morrisville State College as the Section III champion Raiders took on the Section II champions Bethlehem Eagles (17-0-3) in a state regional matchup with a final four berth on the line.
In what can only be described as a ‘made for television’ script the Raiders added much drama to this already suspense filled season in this latest edition.
The Raiders, ranked #17 in the state, had to come from behind and extend the contest to two golden goal fifteen minute overtime sessions, two sudden death penalty kick shootouts and fight through a fifteen minute delay when the lights went out during the shootout.
In the end the Proctor Raiders lived to play another day as they beat the Eagles in the second penalty kick session, 2-1.
The Raiders had the first opportunity to jump start the offense when they got to start the game on the attack; however the Eagles wasted no time moving the ball up and down the field and were able to get a series of quick shots on goal against the Raiders.
The Eagles first attempt came off the foot of senior Liam Roohan who blasted a shot towards Proctor goalie Refik Begic who was able to knock it down. A second Bethlehem opportunity came when the Eagles took a shot that sailed right into the Proctor keeper’s hands.
The Raiders first solid scoring opportunity came after a ball was nearly tipped in following a free kick. Proctor’s Jose Figueroa was in position to unload a second shot,but Bethlehem keeper Alex Kessler slid down to make the stop.
The Eagles offense kept moving the ball well showcasing a keen passing game,and they broke down field where senior Ethan Gunty looked across the field and found junior Ethan Strauss in front of the goal only to be stopped in his tracks by Proctor goalie Refik Begic.
The Raiders looking for their own opportunity came right back down field as junior Kevin Gordon broke away and found himself one on one with the keeper and looked to chip a shot into the goal,but it soared over the head of Kessler,and the game remained scoreless.
The Eagles saw one of their best scoring chances of the game take a Proctor bounce when a pass across the field found Ethan Strauss who gave it a good ride and hit the center beam of the crossbar and the ball came straight down just mere inches from crossing the goal line.
The Eagles attack continued as Liam Roohan found Ethan Strauss for a prime scoring chance,but was again unable to get it past the Proctor keeper.
The Eagles continued getting opportunities as they worked the ball meticulously and patiently to the outside and worked the flanks before moving the ball in towards the goal.
The set style of offense was working well as the Eagles were continuously moving the ball to the outside and then getting it in for good scoring chances.
A combination of solid goaltending and timely defense helped the Raiders keep the Eagles off the board as was evidenced by Proctor senior Almir Tricic racing back on defense to clear a ball away preventing a scoring chance.
The Eagles found themselves with a few more chances as Ethan Gunty raced down the sidelines and put a ball on goal with several teammate set in front of the goal,but the Proctor keeper again came up big as he punched it away.
However, the Bethlehem persistence paid off as senior Liam Roohan headed down the sidelines and sent a perfectly placed lead pass to Ethan Gunty who was on the other end and chipped it in past Begic for a 1-0 lead at the 29 minute mark.
The Eagles, were not satisfied and quickly went looking for more as Ethan Strauss found teammate and junior Matt Henning in front of the net,but the shot sailed wide.
With the first half of play winding down the Raiders were being outshot by the Eagles and taken out of their style of play. A physical style came was being played on both ends and by both teams.
The Raiders were able to get another solid scoring opportunity when Kevin Gordon placed a smart ball on the outside of senior Moulid Somow as he had a defender on his right side,but was forced out of bounds.
A throw in for Proctor made its way to the front of the net where sophomore Belmin Hrnjicic headed a ball just wide of the net. The Raiders again found themselves racing towards the goal when Hrnjicic found Somow,but Bethlehem’s Andrew Carroll kicked it away to end the attack.
With the clock winding down in the half the Eagles found one more scoring opportunity in them when Ethan Strauss sent a ball into the hands of the Proctor goalie on a dangerous play where Bethlehem could have easily found themselves up by two goals.
As the second half got underway the Eagles again found their way to the front of the crease when junior Austin Lang worked his way into the box and attempted to put a ball in the top right hand corner of the goal,but it got way from him and sailed wide.
The Raiders found themselves with a prime scoring opportunity when the Bethlehem keeper Alex Kessler ventured deep out of his crease to bat away a ball and the Raiders where able to kick it away from him and back to the top of the key to a waiting Jose Figueroa who gave the ball a big boot toward the open goal,but the ball took off high and wide.
Kessler came up big again for Bethlehem when he stopped yet another shot by Figueroa a few moments later.
The Eagles drew up a few more scoring chances when Roohan sent a ball towards the goal that was saved by Begic and then cleared by Proctor.
Another opportunity came when the Eagles Ethan Gunty put a shot on goal from inside the box which again was knocked away by Begic.
The Eagles attack was relentless and continued when Liam Roohan worked his way towards the goal and sent a ball towards the goal which was unable to find its way to the back of the goal.
As the game wore on it became more physical but the referees let the boys play through.
The chess match continued as the teams traded off scoring chances when Bethlehem’s Ethan Strauss had an opportunity,but missed and the Raiders Kevin Gordon made his way to the goal,but was stopped by the Eagles defense.
A second chance followed by Proctor when Belmin Hmjicic took a shot that was knocked away by Kessler.
Bethlehem came back with two more chances of their own one off the foot of Liam Roohan’s chip shot towards the goal and then a second chance when Strauss came down field and fed Roohan who headed it just wide of the open goal.
The Raiders came back down field looking for the tying goal of the game,and in the 72nd minute after a free kick found its way to the middle of the field Proctors Kevin Gordon blasted a shot towards goalie Alex Kessler who got a hand on it and then the ball rolled back off his finger tips into the back of the net and the game was tied.
A few minutes later Proctor had a series of chances as the ball was bouncing around dangerously in the box following a corner kick at which time Jose Figueroa was able to get off a shot.
With approximately three minutes remaining Bethlehem was close to taking the lead after Ethan Strauss found Zach Stryker in the middle of the box and the Proctor Raiders goalie did all he could to keep it out of the crease keeping the Raiders hopes alive.
Another scary moment came after a bad defensive play by Proctor resulted in the ball being deflected back towards the Proctor goalkeeper and junior Mohamed Kuwa was able to kick it away and stop the ball from rolling in.
The game nearly came to an end with 17.6 seconds remaining in regulation when Bethlehem’s Liam Roohan broke free from the Raiders defenders and was one on one with the goalie and blasted a shot pass him for what Roohan thought was the go ahead goal.
Before Roohan could take the shot the play was ruled offside as the linesman clearly raised his flag indicating the infraction.
Emotions got the best of the senior,and he was presented a yellow card for arguing and immediately after presented with a red card after he continued to argue. As the clock wound down – overtime was next.
Both teams took a quick break and were back at it for 15 more minutes of soccer to decide this contest. Despite already playing 80 minutes both squads looked fresh and did not lose a step.
Proctor had the first scoring opportunity in overtime when Kevin Gordon took a long shot on goal that was stopped by Kessler. The Raiders found themselves with another chance to win the game in overtime when Jose Figueroa had a good opportunity,but was tripped up just outside the box.
The Raiders had their most dangerous opportunity when Said Begic was able to blast a free kick past the wall of defenders that the Eagles created,and they played on.
Bethlehem was scrambling after the barrage of opportunities that the Raiders quickly unleashed,but they too were able to send a few good shot to the net in overtime.
The best opportunity and the one that nearly ended the game was a blast that found its way to the crossbar and bounced away,and for the second time in the game the Eagles were denied by mere inches.
With a few more scoring chances on both sides the first overtime came to a close and 95 minutes of soccer was in the books.
Again as the start of overtime number two got under way both teams looked as if they were well rested despite having just played 95 minutes of soccer.
The first big scoring chance came for Proctor when Kevin Gordon made his way to the box and appeared to be shoved – a corner kick ensued as Jose Figueroa booted it with no scoring chance coming of it.
Bethlehem found themselves with a good chance after a free kick approximately 30 yards out,but abruptly came to a disappointing finish for the Eagles when it was headed out by Proctor.
The Raiders saw themselves with their own chance to win the game when junior Yusuf Maalim put a solid shot on goal that was saved by Kessler.
The Raiders were again close to winning the game when Proctor’s Kevin Gordon and Bethlehem’s keeper Alex Kessler raced towards a loose ball at the top of the key which resulted in Kessler slamming into Gordon just outside the box and a big save for the Eagles.
Both teams had a few more shots on goal, the biggest resulting in Bethlehem goalie Alex Kessler making an aerial save and landing hard on his hip as two Proctor players went for the ball.
And so the clock ticked down again,and the second overtime was over, 110 minutes of soccer had been played and still it was undecided.
So again both teams trotted out on the field,but this time for the penalty kicks which would finally decide the outcome – Proctor to shoot first.
First up for Proctor was Jose Figueroa – he shoots he scores. Bethlehem brings out goalie Alex Kessler for their first shooter – he shoots and a save by Proctor goalie Refik Begic. Proctor sends out Kevin Gordon for shot number two – he shoots he scores.
Jeremy Shuman comes out for Bethlehem,and he shoots and scores. The next two shooters are Tarik Pehlic for Proctor and Elliot Hiller for Bethlehem both who come up empty handed.
The next two up for Proctor Moulid Somow and Bethlehem’s Matt Henning both score and Proctor leads 3-2. And in the blink of an eye – the Morrisville State Soccer Stadium goes completely dark – what? Yes – the Raiders are one goal away from winning this game,and the lights go out!
After nearly a 15-20 minute delay the lights come back on,and Proctor’s Said Begic can put the game away for Proctor and end the penalty kick shootout and sends a kick careening towards the goal only to hit the cross bar and bounce down,and Bethlehem is still alive.
With the game on the line Bethlehem’s Zack Stryker steps up and delivers and sends the game into a second round of penalty kicks.
So the Proctor Raider story continued – round 2 of penalty kicks. Again five kicks per team – this time Proctor sends up Belmin Hmjicic, Amil Alagic, Haji Hussein, Mohamed Hajim Yusuf Maalim all who score.
The Bethlehem Eagles sent Ethan Strauss, Mike Reverdatto, Andrew Carroll, Brenick Hendrick-Fox and Ben Russell to the line to face the Proctor keeper.
With both teams scoring on all attempts the game came down to the final matchup – Proctor goal keeper Refik Begic and Bethlehem junior Ben Russell.
Russell stepped up to the ball and blasted a shot towards an open section of the net,but Begic laid out his body and came up with the save and the celebration began – the Proctor Raiders dream season continues as they head to the State Final Four in Middletown, New York as Center Region Champions.
Proctor will play state-ranked # 3 Arlington (19-1) of Section I or 11th-ranked Washingtonville (13-1-3) of Section IX.
Following the game the Proctor band of brothers ran towards their fans and slid toward them on the turf in a display of pure raw emotion.
The players held up their hardware proudly as players rejoiced saying, “We are champions”.
Still dripping from his Gatorade shower I was able to catch up with Raider head coach Nick Galiulo who when asked to talk about this game and his team’s performance he simply responded, “Where do I start?”
Galiulo commented that “we had some opportunities early that we were not able to capitalize on…they (Bethlehem) were strong and fast and came out playing hard.” Galiulo said, “They took us away from our game and we were fortunate to come out of the first half only down by one. We remained confident, this team is very resilient,and they keep going and never give up.”
When asked what this win means for the Proctor program the coach said, “Every single day is a first for us…this is incredible…these kids have come a long way and live for this.”
Proctor goaltender Refik Begic said of his big winning save, “It was a great feeling, I knew my team had confidence and this just feels good…this is a first in Proctor history…we have a great team that just kept its composure.”
Junior Haji Hussein was filled with emotion and beaming with pride saying, “This is a great opportunity…I came to a good country from Somalia where we didn’t have uniforms or cleats it was a county at war…this is good…coach has great experience.”
Kevin Gordon who scored the game tying goal for the Raiders said “We started off slow but started playing better after the half after some good advice from coach…he said of his game tying goal he didn’t know it went in at first.”
Finally, I caught up with senior Jose Figueroa who mentioned that “It was a physical game,but all these games now will be like this…this one came down to the last shot, the last save.”
Speaking of what this means for Proctor he said, “After our semifinal game everything we do is a first now…this team is united…we all know where we came from,and we have fun as a team and we have fun doing it.”
Despite being represented by 10 countries one thing is for sure – this team plays as one – the Proctor Raiders.
Proctor 1 Bethlehem 1 2OT
Proctor 2-1 sudden death PK’s
Bethlehem (17-0-3): Ethan Gunty 1-0, Liam Roohan 0-1.
Proctor (16-3-1): Kevin Gordon 1-0, Jose Figueroa 0-1.
Halftime: Bethlehem, 1-0.