It took over 98 minutes to finally get two evenly-matched soccer teams separated on Tuesday night.
But Bailey King scored off Reis Yu’s corner kick late in the second overtime, giving Cleveland a 4-3 win over Johnston County rival Corinth Holders at Clayton High.
The extra neutral-site game was played to determine which team would get the top seed from the Two Rivers 3A Conference and a guaranteed home game in the first round of the state playoffs on Saturday.
Cleveland, which trails in the all-time series 11-5, improved to 13-5-3 on the season.
Corinth Holders (15-5-2) will also be in the playoff bracket and will play its first-round game on Saturday at a site to be determined.
The tie-breaker game was necessary because both teams had just one loss in conference play, as the Pirates won 1-0 on Oct. 13 at Cleveland and the Rams won 1-0 on Oct. 26 at Corinth Holders. The two teams are officially conference co-champions.
“We had great confidence tonight,” Cleveland coach Nicholas Gruhn said. “We’ve been a totally different team since we beat Corinth Holders on the road. We know we can do it. We handled their comeback tonight because we work a lot on our mental game. It only takes about 10 seconds to score a goal and they proved it. But we keep emphasizing to never get too high and never get too low.”
Cleveland took less than four minutes to get on the board, dominating possession until Hunter Lee scored from in close with Matt Kennedy on the helper.
The Pirates tied it in the 21st minute on a blast in the box from Alexis Avila.
But the Rams made it 2-1 less than 80 seconds later when Nick Iuso tallied on a Dominic Piatek assist.
Cleveland looked to be in control with a 3-1 lead in the 46th minute as Dominic Piatek followed Reis Yu’s shot off the post.
But the Pirates didn’t fold. With just 4:17 left in regulation Daniel Petersen scored off a Dillon Parker assist, and then just 10 seconds later Parker scored with Dillon Little on the helper.
The game-winning goal, the solid corner kick from Yu.
“It was kind of fast because I needed to go quickly and take my time at the same time,” Yu said. “You really have to concentrate on where you want the ball, and I was able to put it in a pretty good spot.”
THEY SAID IT
“We were able to score twice pretty quick,” Corinth Holders coach Brent Walston said. “Even after they scored the game winner we had opportunities. I was very pleased we didn’t quit and didn’t fold, even though we were disappointed with the result.”
THREE TO KNOW
Bailey King, defender, Cleveland: The junior had the game-winning goal to give his team at least one guaranteed home game in the playoffs.
“I felt it coming and just tried to beat everyone to the net,” King said. “We didn’t want to go to PKs. That would have been iffy.”
Dominic Piatek, midfielder, Cleveland: The junior had an assist and a goal to stake the Rams to a 3-1 lead.
Dillon Parker, midfielder, Corinth Holders: The senior had an assist and a goal in a 10-second span late in the second half to help force overtime.
“Our team has passion and desire and we really hate losing,” Parker said. “We know we can score quickly. We kept fighting and never gave up. Cleveland’s a very good team. We played them a really good game and can only get better.”
BY THE NUMBERS
6: Saves from Corinth Holders goalie Ryan Mills.
8: Corinth Holders shots in the second half.
11: Saves from Cleveland goalie Austin Myrick.
14: Goals by Avila this season.
20: Goals by Lee this season.
41: Points from Parker this season including 19 assists.
Both teams will of course head to the state playoffs.
Corinth Holders is 7-5 all-time in playoff action while Cleveland is 4-4.