DES MOINES – Considering the stakes, it’s not a stretch to call it the most emotionally trying 67-second stretch in Lewis Central boys soccer history.
With L.C. trailing 1-0 in the 50th minute, Titan Brandon Cline was fouled in the box, and Paul Devine punched in the penalty kick to knot the game at 1-1, sending a charge into the L.C. faithful.
But 19 seconds later, Jose Martinez dribbled through the Titan defense and scored to make it 2-1, Storm Lake. Then 48 seconds after that, Andy Rodriguez was fouled in the box, giving Martinez a penalty kick for a hat trick and a commanding two-goal lead.
His shot caromed off the post back at him, and he punched in the rebound. After the Tornadoes celebrated, officials correctly ruled that the kicker cannot be the first to touch the rebound, nullifying the back-breaking goal.
“It happened so quick,’’ Lewis Central’s Luis Espino said. “(That stretch) felt really disappointing, but when they waved it off, it gave us a chance, a bit of hope.’’
That hope turned to joy in the 70th minute when Storm Lake failed to clear a ball and Connor Lancial alertly smacked in the equalizer.
After 30 more minutes of scoreless action, it came down to penalty kicks. And 6-foot-7 keeper Cole Jensen and his teammates were equal to the task. Third-seeded, ninth-rated Lewis Central won the shootout 4-2 and then celebrated its first boys state soccer victory like madmen Friday at Cownie Soccer Park.
Sixth-seeded, third-rated Storm Lake closed at 16-2. L.C. (18-3) advances to Saturday’s 2:35 p.m. semifinal against seventh-seeded, eighth-rated Hudson United (19-2), a 3-2 winner over second-seeded, 10th-rated Dubuque Wahlert.
“We’ve battled for this all season,’’ said Jensen, a Xavier University recruit. “We practice hard every day for these kind of moments, so we’re going to cherish it.’’
L.C. coach James Driver carried plenty of confidence into the shootout.
“I felt confident enough in Cole to know that if he’d stop one, which he is very capable of doing, that I knew our guys would step up and bury the rest of them,’’ he said.
Storm Lake opened the penalty kicks with Brian Munoz connecting, and Lancial answered for the Titans. Erick Romo scored for the Tornadoes and Will Devine answered for the Titans.
Then Jensen dove to his left and rejected the shot of Rodriguez, giving L.C. the edge. And Luis Espino converted for a 3-2 Titan lead after three rounds.
Then Jensen made it two straight saves, sprawling again to his left against Bway Ku.
That put Paul Devine in the most enviable position for a soccer player. Make the kick and win the match. He did, and then he started turning victorious somersaults on the field.
“With this team, you always have a chance,’’ he said. “That’s just kind of the definition of this team. You just keep fighting.’’
It was an uphill climb for the Titans from the 38th minute on, when Martinez took a pass from Rodriguez and found the net for the game’s first goal.
After Paul Devine’s PK to tie it, the Titans were barely done celebrating when they fell behind again.
“The most vulnerable time for any team is right after they score,’’ Driver said.
But after the Titans barely avoided being down by two goals, they dug in and competed, capped by Lancial’s clutch equalizer.
“Coming back from being down is even better,’’ Espino said. “I have no words to describe it. We did what we had to do to score the second goal to tie it. Knowing that you worked hard to get to that point and to win is spectacular.’’
Driver said he prepared his team for every scenario. In the lone quarterfinal among the 12 at Cownie Park on Friday to go to PKs, the Titans were ready.
“They have a strong keeper, but our guys are just phenomenal shooters, so I was really surprised that he was able to come up with a couple,’’ Storm Lake coach Ben Schekirke said.
Jensen said there’s a fine line in shootouts between analyzing and overthinking.
“I’m just really confident,’’ he said. “I don’t second-guess myself, and hopefully it turns out.
“It’s a little bit of instinct, for sure. I do as much reading as I can, starting from the half, when they’re walking up. I make them wait on me. I just made my decision based off what I read, and I went for it.’’
All of the Titans went for it. And now they’re two wins from the ultimate prize.
“Very excited,’’ Driver said. “New territory for our program. Had never won a game in school history on the boys’ side. I told the guys to relish it and enjoy it.’’
Storm Lake (16-2) 1 1 0 –2
Lewis Central (18-3) 0 2 1 – 3
Goals: SL, Jose Martinez 2; LC, Paul Devine, Connor Lancial. Assist: SL, Andy Rodriguez.