GREENCASTLE — After losing in the regional final last season, this year’s Covenant Christian boys’ soccer team returned with unfinished business. The Warriors rounded into form throughout the year and avenged that loss last Saturday, taking the school’s first-ever regional.
The Warriors celebrated and soaked up every available moment. They rolled down the large embankment behind the west goal before mugging for several sets of photographs and finally heading off the field as the lights were being turned off.
Tied at 1-1, Covenant needed some last minute heroics from senior Jon Christensen’s penalty kick, but took home a 2-1 victory over George Washington.
“I’ve never been more nervous in my life,” Christensen said. “I’ve got to hand it to these guys who played their butts off. Glory to God as He’s blessed us this year. He gave me the opportunity and I finished it. Couldn’t be happier.”
After the girls’ soccer team brought home the first regional title in school history last season, the boys notched the second for Covenant and the accomplishment was not lost on Warriors coach Michael Johnson.
“It’s important as far as looking back from a last year’s point of view,” Johnson said. “It means everything and it’s a great group of guys that have busted their butts. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Covenant started out aggressively in the first half and controlled the time of possession for most of the first 10 minutes. The Warriors attacked the goal unmercifully and in one set got off three consecutive shots, two of which were blocked by Washington goalkeeper Jose Cabrera and the third caromed off a Continentals player, resulting in a Covenant corner kick.
George Washington withstood the opening barrage and mounted a counter attack for a 10-minute stretch of its own, but to no avail as the Warriors’ defense stood strong.
As the half ticked down under 10 minutes, Covenant caught a fortunate break off of a corner kick being sent in. In the scrum in front of the goal, a ball was kicked into the shoulder of Keaton Joseph and ricocheted into the net past a stunned Cabrera.
“Every now and then you have to have a ball go your way,” Johnson said.
George Washington responded with 27.9 seconds left in the half and tied the match at 1-1.
A foul on Covenant left the Continentals with a free kick from the top of the box and instead of lifting the ball up in the air, Sabas Tigre sent a screaming grounder across the box into the back left of the goal.
Both teams regrouped and Covenant again came out the aggressor.
The Warriors outshot George Washington 6-0 in the second half, really taking it to the Continentals. Midway through the half, Covenant clustered a great number of scoring opportunities together, but could not find the back of the net.
“They didn’t give up and it was just effort,” Johnson said. “We kept putting it on them, putting it on them. It was so important to see them push through and finding a way to win close games.”
As the game clock ticked down, the action became fast and furious with both teams trying to score.
That aggression got the best of the Continentals as the Warriors took their sixth corner of the half with just over a minute remaining.
The ball headed for the net and as Cabrera blocked it down, the ball was on its way toward the net and a Continentals player appeared to have touched it with his hand to save the game-winning goal.
The far side official came in waving his flag and awarded Covenant a penalty kick with 1:08 remaining.
Christensen lined up after a brief wait and sent the shot past Cabrera for the victory.
Covenant (8-12-1) travels at 10 a.m. Saturday to Floyd Central for its opening semistate game with Greensburg (14-6).
“It’s not going to be 70 degrees and on the beach, but we get to head south,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a new experience, but it’s an opportunity to do well.”