FAYETTEVILLE — Panther Creek coach David Grant couldn’t fault his team’s effort.
The Catamounts, the 30-seed in the 4A East bracket, had answered the first goal by No. 3-seed Fayetteville Pine Forest within a minute, and then prevented another Trojans goal over the next 82 minutes before falling behind again in overtime.
With four minutes left to play in overtime, there wasn’t enough time to find an equalizer, and Panther Creek lost 2-1.
“We knew they were going to roll guys in and hustle like crazy and make us work and work and work,” Grant said. “I was proud of my guys for putting forth the same effort, if not more at times, throughout the night.”
The two teams had met in a preseason jamboree, something that Grant said his team didn’t realize until it arrived at the school. Panther Creek knew not to take Pine Forest, which plays in one of the traditionally weaker 4A conferences, lightly.
“You have to be good to play 18 games, no matter who you play,” Grant said.
The Catamounts (8-11-2) conceded a 14th-minute goal to Pat Mullins of Pine Forest (19-2). But in the 15th minute, Panther Creek sophomore Spencer Saunders sent in a bending 35-yard strike and evened the score one minute later.
Most of Panther Creek’s chances were blocked by Pine Forest defenders, keeping the goalkeeper from having to make many stops.
The Trojans’ John Tursich sent in a rebound with 4:08 left in the second 10-minute half of overtime, and it stood as the winning score.
The Catamounts hit the crossbar with two minutes left in the match.
“If we could finish, we’d be No. 1 in the SWAC and probably in the top 10 as far as seeding, but that’s why you go out and play the games,” said Grant, who will lose just seven seniors from this year’s group.
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