KALIDA – It was exactly the way a district final should be; two evenly matched teams playing a close match that would ultimately be decided in a shootout.
In the end Kalida knocked off Lima Central Catholic on Saturday afternoon at Kalida by a 2-1 margin, thanks to a 4-3 edge in the shootout, for the right to advance to Division III regional soccer action.
LCC had the strong wind at its back in the first half and that helped the Thunderbirds jump out to 1-0 lead when Sean Daley attempted a free kick from just inside the midfield line.
The Wildcats goal keeper, Brent Hovest, appeared to have stopped the shot but the ball inexplicably slipped through his hands and LCC had the lead at the 29:35 mark of the first half.
But Kalida would continually apply pressure on the T-Birds defense as the entire game was played mostly in the LCC half of the field.
LCC was able to respond as defenders Ryan Recker, Joseph Eisele, Connor AbouJaoude and Dylan Niese combined to keep the Wildcats off the board and LCC took a 1-0 lead after the first 40 minutes of play.
The Wildcats had the wind at their backs in the second half and took advantage when they tied the game at 1-1 on a corner kick. Logan Roebke kicked the ball into the box and Adam Langhals was able to bang it home for Kalida at the 29:54 mark of the second half.
Neither team would score again in regulation, and the two then fought to a scoreless 15 minute overtime period, and the game would be decided on penalty kicks.
LCC looked to be in control after the second Kalida penalty shot went wide, and the first three T-Bird players all scored. But the final three Wildcats connected, and Hovest came up huge and blocked the final two LCC shots to give Kalida a 4-3 penalty kick edge and the 2-1 victory.
“It feels great,” Hovest said. “I kind of messed up (when he let the first half goal go through his hands) but was able to settle down after that; I tried to step up for the seniors.”
LCC bows out at 15-4-1 in coach Bryan Burkholder’s final season at the helm for the T-Birds.
“We had back to back to shootouts, and one team has to go home,” Burkholder said. “Both teams played well but Frank (assistant coach Terry) and I are retiring but we had a great run.”
Kalida, 14-2-3, advances to meet Ottawa Hills at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Tiffin Columbian High School.
“That was very exciting but unfortunately someone has to go home,” Kalida coach Mark Czubik said. “A good team has to go home and we are so even, they (the Thunderbirds) should be proud of what they accomplished.
“We lost our first game of the year 5-0, and we worked so hard and look where we are.”