It was in the 1973 National League pennant race when the sagacious seer Yogi Berra uttered the now famous words “It ain’t over till it’s over.” While he was well known for his malapropisms, many of his sayings still have bizarre truths. This certainly proved to be true on Saturday when the Kimball Union Wildcats faced off against the New Hampton Huskies.
From the beginning of the match, strange things occurred. After the coaches decided on 40-minute halves, the scoreboard started with 35. Then after we lost the coin toss, we were given the sun in our eyes for the first half, even though we knew that the sun would become worse in the second. We weren’t going to argue.
The match started off with crisp short passes up front between Ollie Cozzi, Trong Phan and Will Haynes, before New Hampton drove up the left side and sent a surprising shot high over Max van Dijk. The Huskies kept the pressure on and it was Will who thwarted a frighteningly close one-on-one attempt. Then for the next minutes we saw Keenan Thygesen and Fintan Trimble executing strong defensive plays until finally we watched Jack Lavalle work a give-and-go with Jon Li and Will to get up into New Hampton’s end. With only twelve minutes left in the half Jack sent a ball up the field and Trong took our first legitimate blast of the day, but it passed just high of the upper left corner. Thirty seconds later, the Huskies responded by driving up the left side deking our defense and placing a ball in close to the post for their first score.
While we had three more shots in the final five (or so we thought) minutes, we couldn’t get on the board. With three minutes left on the scoreboard, the official blew his whistle and said the half was over. Bizarre.
At the start of the second half we got to see the Tran brothers (Kien and Kevin) take opposite defensive wings and they forced New Hampton out to the sides. With them was Yohan Do who also broke up their attacks. Cam Barton, David Choung, and Liam McKewan also displayed an even stronger presence on the field than they had against Hanover, and proved that they had the grit to be strong members of our team. Kyle Young made an amazing block with his outstretched right leg when it looked as if New Hampton had a sure goal. Suddenly, Kien blocked a blast with his face and was forced to come out of the game. Before most of us knew what was happening, the far official gave a drop ball to the Huskies, and instead of instructing him to send a courtesy pass to us (in a Gentlemanly manner) he allowed him to take a direct kick which went over Josh Wang’s outstretch fingers. To say we were in shock would be a huge understatement. In all our years of coaching, we had never seen this happen or be allowed. New Hampton we up by two.
However, the Wildcats were not going to give up. Ten minutes later it was Jon and Ollie again heading in close. Ollie took the shot, but the keeper saved it. Seconds later Jon followed up with his own drive. Jon brought the ball into the box where the keeper attacked. Jon shot high. The keeper pushed the ball up with his fingers to send it over the bar, but misjudged the distance. The ball rose in a high loft and the came to rest softly in the back of the net. We were within one.
KUA kept up the pressure and the shots. Then with what we thought was eighteen (turned out to be thirteen by the official’s time) minutes, Ben Weise took a throw in and passed it up to Will Haynes. Will brought the ball to the far side of the box before taking his shot and tying the game up at two goals apiece. At that point, we lost track of how much time we actually had left in the game and focused on our saves and drives. Josh Wang earned another diving snatch and Kyle shut down another one-one-one in the box. Through all this Nick Wilder (as he had all game) darted quickly in to quell any thoughts the Huskies might have had at scoring another point.
At the final whistle we felt that even with all the idiosyncrasies and the quirkiness of the game, we had played well. We hadn’t given up and proved that we had the determination to come from behind to snag victory from our opponent.
Our next match will be this Wednesday at Cardigan Mountain School where we will be part of a Round Robin Tournament. The games are scheduled to start at 2:00.