Mustangs’ record run ends in state quarters

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By Brad Stephens

   LEXINGTON – North Oldham’s penalty kick magic finally ran out Saturday night.


   A Mustang team that had twice kept its season alive on PK shootouts the past two weeks lost one 2-1 Saturday in the state quarterfinals. North fell 1-0 to Bowling Green at Bell Stadium at Henry Clay High School.

   The loss ends the winningest season in school history for the Mustangs (20-5-1). The state quarterfinal loss also marks North’s deepest postseason run.

   “It’s obviously disappointing we lost,” coach Chad Niedert said. “But like I told the boys after the game, it stings now but we can’t hang our heads about this. I know we don’t have another game to look forward to now, but when we’ve had as positive a season as we’ve really had... it’s really looking up for this program.”

   Saturday’s game played out similar to the Oct. 22 Region 8 semifinal game against Collins and the semi-state matchup Monday against Central Hardin.

   Those games finished 0-0 and 1-1, respectively, after 80 minutes of regulation and two five-minute extra time periods. North then went on to win penalty kick shootouts both times.

   Saturday the Purples and Mustangs played 90 minutes of scoreless soccer, setting up the shootout.

   “In no way do I think we can blame it on the PK shooters,” North’s Mason Smith said. “We should’ve won it in regular time. We were kind of flat the whole game and I guess the scoreboard reflected that.”

   Just like in Monday’s shootout vs. the Bruins, Niedert called for a kicking lineup of Bradley Dean, Hunter Wafford, Will Allen, Sean Williams-Harris and Jad Vicich.

Dean led off with a clean goal. BG’s Nicholas Otis answered to tie the shootout 1-1.

   Wafford’s attempt was then saved. The Purples’ Felix Villatoro, who in the first half had come the closest to scoring a regulation goal as either team did all night, converted to put BG ahead 2-1.

   Next up for North was Allen, whose shot missed high. The Mustangs’ 6-foot-4 keeper, Seth Junion, answered the call, saving a Johnny Parra attempt to keep the deficit at one.

   Williams-Harris came up next. Between regulation and shootouts, he’d converted four penalty kicks over the last three games. But his attempt missed high.

   That gave the Purples the chance to clinch the win. But Enes Atici banged his attempt off the post, giving Vicich a chance to keep the game alive.

   Vicich, the Region 8 tournament MVP, had scored the winning PK against Central Hardin. But Saturday his attempt found the crossbar, bouncing off and ending the game and the Mustangs’ season.

   “Adrenaline plays into it and it just happens,” Niedert said. “They’re all human, they’re teenagers. Even the best do it. It just happens.”

   The loss marks the end of the careers for a successful senior class. Vicich, Wafford, Williams-Harris, Colin Burke, David Cottrell, Nick Elliott, Quinn Foster and Jake Johnson all played their final game Saturday.

   “It’s unfortunate that we lost,” Vicich said. “But I think we have to look at the bright side, what we’ve done for this program this year and what our team has done.

   “We were the first boys soccer team at North Oldham to win 20 games, first to win regions. That’s something that we have to hold our heads upon.”

   Niedert first came to North as a junior varsity coach when this senior group was beginning its Mustang soccer careers as freshman.

   Now, after his first year as head coach, he said he’s proud of what they accomplished this year.

   “When I took the team over this year, I knew there were a lot of good things to come,” Niedert said. “These boys are a core group. They’re great leaders.”

The Mustangs still bring a talented roster back next season, especially defensively. Goalkeeper Junion and a back line of Sam Kelly, Ben Stinebruner and Jack Stone will all be seniors next year. Other contributors like Jake Howe, Smith and Will Allen will also be seniors.

   “Next year we’re going to have a lot of seniors,” Niedert said. “I think next year we’ll be pretty strong.”

   Before this season the Mustangs hadn’t even made a region tournament since 2004. Now North’s program is in position to be an annual contender for state tournament berths, Smith said.

   “It’s hard right now to be happy about it,” Smith said. “But this is by far the best team we’ve ever had. You have to be proud of that, and give the seniors a lot of credit because they worked their butts off all year... This was an amazing season.”

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