SANDUSKY — All Bluffton’s Jude Spallinger was thinking do not miss.
With time winding down to the final minutes in the second overtime it appeared the game between Bluffton and Fairview Park Fairview was heading to penalty kicks.
But that changed when Jonathon Schriner saw Spallinger running down the field, draped by two defenders, and hit the streaking Spallinger with a great pass.
The Pirate sophomore was able to shake off his two opponents and then chipped the ball past Warrior Tyler Danburg for the game-winning goal with 2:57 left in the second overtime to give Bluffton a 2-1 victory against Fairview Park Fairview in the Division III regional semifinal Wednesday night.
With the win Bluffton (16-2-2) advances to the regional final Saturday against Ottawa-Hills at site and time yet to be determined. Fairview ends its season with a 11-6-2 record.
“Schriner fed me and it was a really nice ball over the top and he set me up and it was a really easy goal for me,” Spallinger said. “Hopefully I didn’t miss. It was a good pass and a great moment and I am happy I didn’t miss.
Spallinger said the Pirates came in not knowing much about Fairview but wanted to make sure the Pirates played their game.
“Our defense played well and we didn’t want to change too much,” Spallinger said. “It is an exciting moment and I am happy it happened. We have some games to go so we have to keep working hard.”
Bluffton head coach Steve Smucker said it was a very evenly played match.
“I felt Fairview did a terrific job and competed well and had some good chances and we had some good chances,” Smucker said. “It was just back and forth braving these elements and hat’s off to both teams for competing that long dead even.”
Smucker added that he was preparing for penalty kicks but was happy to avoid it and said it was about his team’s effort.
“When Fairview was attacking they were fully committed to going forward and I think we needed to have that at our end,” Smucker said. “I felt like John Schriner did that a lot and Kade did that a lot and it was great to see Jude run that ball down and get it. What a terrific effort to finish that.”
Bluffton let a golden opportunity slip away in the second overtime around the 12 minute mark when the Pirates intercepted a pass deep in Warrior territory. Bluffton’s Kaden Basil found himself alone with just him and the goalie in a stand off around 10 feet from the goal. Basil’s shot sailed wide right and the Warriors breathed a sigh of relief.
Fairview Park had a chance to end the game in the first overtime at the 9:51 mark after the ball eluded a Bluffton defender and bounced right to Warrior Mauricio Huerta who was five feet in front of the Bluffton goal. However his shot missed the mark and the Pirates survived.
With it raining all day, it was inevitable that the wet conditions would play a role and it did on the first two scores.
Fairview Park Fairview took advantage of the slippery conditions when they tallied the first goal of the game. Awarded a free kick to Fairview Park at around the 35 yard line. Warrior Ryan Parkas launched the ball right at the goal that Pirate keeper Nic Essinger had a beat on. However, the ball slipped through his hands and Max Meany easily headed it in to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead at the 12:30 mark of the first half.
After the Warrior score, Bluffton began to press the issue and had several opportunities as the first half entered the final 20 minutes of the period. The Pirates’ persistence paid off when Kaden Basil received a rain slicked ball that allowed him to get ahead of his defenders and Basil then beat the Warrior goalie as he attacked the net and pushed it into the right corner to knot the score with 6:14 left in the first half.