Reyes golden for Rockets in triple overtime
After defeating Cascade 8-0 in Wednesday's regular season finale, the Forrest Rockets entertained an entirely different Champions squad on Saturday in the first round of the District 11A-A Tournament.
The game was filled with a myriad of yellow cards, shoulder to shoulder bumping and grinding, spectacular goalie play and a crucial official's call late in regulation as the two teams battled for the right to move on.
It took nearly 63 minutes to decide a winner when finally; Angel Reyes took a pass from Taylor Brown and drilled a low bullet past Cascade's gallant goaltender Cody Smith (23 saves) at the 2:23 mark of the third overtime.
Brown said after the game, "I just received the ball at the sideline and took it and I heard Angel say, drop, drop, drop. At the eighteen, I turned and made a good move on the defender and just dropped it and was praying; just put it in Angel, put in. And he did."
Reyes added, "I was thinking I have to make this for the seniors. We came all this way and I knew I had to make it and when it went in, it just like yes, we did it."
Cascade set the tone early in the contest, as they became the aggressors, putting the Rockets on their heels on some early scoring chances that were thwarted by Rocket keeper Kyle Billingsly, who stopped 17 Champion shots in the match.
Forrest also had some good chances in the first half with the best two coming very late as Andrew Charles just missed over the crossbar on a shot off his chest, and moments later, Smith made a spectacular diving save on a Trevor Whitworth shot that was destined for the back of the net.
The nil-nil contest moved to the second half and the action became even more heated as every ball was contested with close quarter contact.
Forrest was on the losing end of many of the battles and their frustration mounted with every passing minute with the issuance of four yellow cards to the Rockets in the second half.
With less than four minutes to play in regulation, Brandon Daniel was tackled in the box and was awarded a penalty kick.
Daniel's kick sailed high over the crossbar, but an official's whistle gave the Champs another attempt on a rarely called encroachment penalty on the Daniels free kick.
A livid hometown Chapel Hill crowd, an exasperated sideline, and an angry bunch of Rockets watched as Daniels' second attempt zoomed past a defenseless Billingsly into the back of the net for a 1-0 Cascade lead.
As time ticked away, Forrest head coach Amber Porter moved the defense up and moved Reyes up from his defensive position to offense and it paid off as the junior knotted the contest at 1-1 on a skidding low ball past Smith with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Under TSSAA guidelines, two ten minute overtime periods would be followed by two, five-minute overtime periods before a five-man shootout would ensue until a winner was decided.
In overtime number one, Forrest controlled the majority of the action with two good scoring chances, the last on a near miss header by Andrew Mendoza off a Whitworth corner kick.
Time expired in the first OT with game still tied and the second extra period was evenly played, but there was no scoring again and the contest moved to the initial five-minute overtime period.
Forrest took control from the outset of the third overtime with a relentless attack on Smith and the Cascade defense that finally broke when Brown found the edge on a run and crossed to Reyes, who blasted the golden game winner past Smith.
"That was the longest game I ever played in my life," said Brown. "That was the most nerve racking game I ever played."
With the win, Forrest advances to a semifinal match-up versus Marshall County at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at Community.
Forrest lost to the Tigers 4-1 on March 22 in a regular season battle in Lewisburg.