LIMA — The people huddled in the press box had already begun to review the overtime format.
Then, suddenly, Holland Springfield had the lead.
Holland Springfield’s Cameron Schlicher scored with 3:13 to go to lift the Blue Devils past Lima Senior 2-1 in the Division I boys soccer sectional finals Wednesday at Spartan Stadium.
The match was just as even as the 1-1 score until the 3:13 mark.
Both teams took turns controlling the midfield and making runs into the offensive third.
And both teams had numerous stellar plays by the defensemen and the goalkeeper.
“Considering we were missing our starting goalkeeper, I thought we played about as well as we could in the back line,” Lima Senior coach Tim Brown said. “It was not perfect, obviously, but the kids gave everything they had.”
The Blue Devils had the final serious run at the net and took advantage of the opportunity.
Springfield’s Justin Sekerak dribbled down to just a few yards outside the penalty arc, 22-yards out. He then slipped a pass to Schlicher, who was charging hard into the right side of the box.
Schlicher fired a shot from 10-yards out into the lower-left corner of the net to break the tie and give the Blue Devils the 2-1 lead.
“I was coming across the field and I saw Justin coming forward with the ball, so I made a slant run (to the goal) and he put a perfect ball through,” Schlicher said.
Holland Springfield (4-12), the No. 9 seed, advances to the district semifinals to meet the Anthony Wayne/Toledo Waite winner at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Findlay High School.
“It was a battle,” Holland Springfield coach Andrew Screptock said. “Everyone got their money’s worth today.”
Added Brown, “It was a battle of wills. They tried to control the midfield and we tried to get the ball out to our wings, which has been our strength all year. We had opportunities and their goalkeeper made three nice saves.”
Lima Senior, the No. 8 seed, ends its season 10-4-3.
Lima Senior outshot Springfield, 9-8.
“I think it was a back-and-forth game,” Schlicher said. “They (the Spartans) played excellent. And I have to thank our defense. They were spectacular.”
Lima Senior goalkeeper Eyon Berney was making its first start after starting goalkeeper Kevin Samons suffered a broken hand a few weeks ago. Berney made four saves.
Springfield goalkeeper Nick Woodard had six saves.
The match was tied at 1 at the half.
Springfield’s Justin Briggs scored first on a high-chipped shot from 25-yards out with 34:31 left in the first half.
Cole Mericle tied the match at 1 when he drilled a penalty kick into the back of the net with 7:00 left before halftime.
Originally, it looked like Mericle had scored on a shot from 12-yards out when he took a perfect pass off Nick Jolliff’s 24-yard free kick, just beyond the arc. But Mericle’s goal was waved off.
Instead, it was ruled that Mericle had been tripped inside the 18-yard box before he took the shot. Because of that, he was awarded a penalty kick.
Mericle’s first penalty kick was also waved off when it was ruled he took it before the referee blew his re-start whistle.
It didn’t matter, however.
Mericle simply lined up the penalty kick for the second time and rammed it home.
Both teams had several chances in the second half to take the lead. Lima Senior’s Tyler Lesh had four shots on the night, mostly on headers which the Springfield goalkeeper gobbled up.
The Spartans’ best second-half chance came off the foot of midfielder Sam Sharik, who dribbled down the left edge of the 18-yard box with eight minutes to go. When he reached the 6-yard box on the left side, he fired a shot at point-blank range, but Woodard was there to gather in the blast.
It marked one of the better seasons in Lima Senior boys soccer history, including going 3-3-1 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
“It’s a tremendous group of kids and they pretty much bought into what we were trying to teach,” Brown said. “(Former coach) Mitch Monfort left me a wonderful program. The foundation was here. We just took it another step. They played very dynamic soccer. And we’re young. We have a lot of firepower coming back.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.