KALIDA — It was the ultimate in high school athletics with one team savoring the thrill of victory while the other team suffered a heart breaking defeat.
Bluffton knocked off Kalida 2-1 in sudden death in Division III boys soccer action Saturday afternoon to grab its third straight district title. The win avenges a 1-0 victory by Kalida during the regular season.
The match was tied at 1-1 after 80 minutes of regulation play before the two teams battled to two scoreless 15 minute overtimes.
Regular season soccer matches do not employ penalty kicks and thus many matches end as a tie, but tournament games obviously can’t end in a tie so OHSAA rules use penalty kicks in tournament play.
The match then went to penalty kicks with each team selecting five players who kicked in a rotating pattern.
The Pirates (12-5-2) missed their first two kicks before they connected on three in a row. The Wildcats, who had made their first three kicks, then missed their last two and the game would go to sudden victory. Kalida had its fourth kick blocked by Bluffton goal keeper Dakota Clymer and its fifth kick bounced off the top cross bar.
Again, as they headed to sudden victory, both teams selected five different players to kick and Bluffton coach Steve Smucker elected to send freshman Noah Fredritz to attempt the first Pirates kick.
Fredritz calmly booted the ball into the back of the net for his first goal of the season, and when the Kalida kick misfired off the top cross bar, the Pirates had the win and the trip to the regional.
“What a match, it was highly competitive and we played very well.” Bluffton coach Steve Smucker said. “That was Dakota’s third penalty kick save this year; he might be our most improved player. That was also Simon’s first goal of the year; good for him.”
The match was every bit as close as the final score indicates, with the two teams battling evenly with each taking turns being the aggressor and having a slight advantage in possession time.
Bluffton took the lead when Braden Conrad scored from 12 yards out off of a nice pass from Collin Oglesbee at the 13:37 mark of the first half.
Kalida (11-6-3) bounced back and tied the game at 1-1 when Gabe Hovest took a nifty pass from Trent Guisinger and pounded the ball home at the 27:18 mark of the second half.
“We thought it would be a tough and evenly matched game and that’s what it was.” Kalida coach Mark Czubik said. “They outplayed us in the first half but we played better in the second half. Penalty kicks are such a crap shoot with a lot of pressure on the kicker, unfortunately it wasn’t our day today.”
Bluffton will play the Ottawa Hills, a 2-1 winner against Archbold, at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Findlay.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.