Over the first 68 minutes of the Sectional 24 opener, Eastbrook looked to be well on their way to a convincing win in their first playoff game.
However, in the course of two minutes, Eastbrook’s fortunes quickly changed, and ultimately, the contest ended in heartbreak.
After a phenomenal 2020 campaign, one that saw the Panthers win 13 games, it abruptly came to an end, as the Tigers overcame a two-goal deficit and eliminated Eastbrook from the playoffs with a 3-2 triumph on penalty kicks.
“You don’t score a lot in soccer, and so, you’re really not that far out,” Eastbrook Head Coach Adam Hallis said. “For Yorktown, they were never really that far away where they couldn’t get two, and we were really not that far clear that we could let up.”
The opening half, and the first 33 minutes of the second, was some of the best soccer that Eastbrook had played all year. Their passes were crisp. They applied consistent pressure to the Yorktown defense and pummeled Tiger goalkeeper Hudson Bouw with shots. But most importantly, they executed at every level of the pitch.
Eastbrook got on the board early, as Ben Moser scored on a corner kick from Andrew Diller, and after that, the Panthers dominated, firing off 13 shots to Yorktown’s three and creating several more high-quality scoring chances.
The Panthers kept the pressure on in the second half, and Sam Spiegel, who played a tremendous game from start to finish, added to his record-breaking season, collecting his 23rd tally less than four minutes in to give Eastbrook a 2-0 lead.
However, with 12:03 remaining in the contest, disaster struck, and everything began to unravel.
Yorktown, after being on the defensive for most of the contest, began to push offensively, and by the 10:03 mark, they turned a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 tie, taking advantage of a few fortuitous bounces.
Eastbrook went on to dominate the overtime periods, outshooting the Tigers by a 9-0 margin, but the Panthers, despite having four tremendous opportunities to grab the lead, were unable to do so.
The match, ultimately, came down to penalty kicks, and after two exciting rounds in which both teams scored seven goals, Yorktown’s Ethan Guinn came away with the game winner and Bouw made the final stop on Bryan Popoca, completing the Tigers’ comeback and ending Eastbrook’s season.
Goalkeeper Tytus Anthony gave the Panthers every chance in the penalty kick phase, making three huge stops, but in the end, the Panthers came up just short.
“You get down to PK’s and you just hope,” Hallis said. “Tytus does what he does and gets three saves, you can’t ask for anything more. He did what he had to do. It just is what it is sometimes.”
Heading into an uncertain season, one with a changing scheme, a different defensive formation, a goalie switch, and a global pandemic, the Panthers flourished, playing as one cohesive unit rather than a group of individuals, which led to a majority of their success.
While Hallis has had other teams that have advanced further in the tournament in years past, the 2020-2021 Panthers will always hold a special place in his heart.
“It was a special team. There are teams that were good, and we’ve had the teams that have won sectionals…but there was something special about this team. It was family. It was fun. I enjoyed coming to practice. These guys gave [everything] a sense of normalcy that we had a lot of fun with.
“It’s always sad to lose, but I’m more disappointed that I won’t be able to come out and play with them tomorrow. I think that’s the hardest part – knowing that we are not going to see this team again this way. They are a special group of guys. There is so much that has happened this year that they’ve had to deal with in a weird season, and they did it so well.”