FOLSOM – No one on the Falcons could explain it.
In the final minute of Saturday’s cold, wet Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI soccer championship at Folsom High School, Lindhurst’s David Usvat reached with his right arm and slapped a Forest Lake Christian pass out of the air.
Falcons senior forward Andreas Zeischegg nailed the resulting penalty shot, breaking a tied game and capturing FLC’s fourth section championship, 2-1.
“That was a miracle win,” Forest Lake Christian coach Thad Kopec said. “I’ve coached 25 years, over 400 games, and I can’t remember ever any kind of game when the player, on purpose or accidentally, would so drastically put his hand up and hit the ball. I mean, his hand was above his head.”
Ben Sparling scored the Falcons’ first goal little more than a minute into the game for a 1-0 lead.
In the 22nd minute, Lindhurst’s Miguel Vasquez scored on a deflected penalty kick from teammate Luis Martinez.
“That was definitely the best team we’ve faced this season,” Sparling said of the Blazers (11-3-1).
Forest Lake Christian (21-3-3) beat San Juan 5-0 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. On Thursday, in the semifinal match, the Falcons defeated Le Grand 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout after overtime ended in a 1-1 tie.
Much like the games leading to the final, FLC used the second half to shut down its opponent. Against San Juan, the Falcons only scored once in the first half, followed by a four-goal surge in the second. But against Lindhurst, it was the defenders who made the improvement.
“Our defense really stepped up,” said Kopec, who added that the play of senior defender Luke Ziegenmeyer was the catalyst.
Ziegenmeyer was one of 12 seniors on the team. Until Saturday, the 12th-graders hadn’t won a section banner.
The last time the Falcons won the section was in 2002, when they beat Le Grand 2-1 in overtime. The other two championships – in 1997 and 1998 – also took story-like finishes.
In ’97, in a 3-2 win against Central Catholic, Forest Lake Christian recovered from a 2-0 deficit with 20 minutes left. The ’98 title was won 3-1 in overtime, after FLC missed two penalty kicks in regulation. And in ’02, keeper Joe Martin made 15 saves as the Falcons scored with five minutes left to force overtime, overcoming several untimely injuries.
“It really hasn’t set in yet, because it was such an amazing victory” Kopec said of his fourth section championship. “I’m sure that in the next couple of days, they’re going to be astonished for what they achieved.”
Forest Lake Christian senior keeper Jason Pulliam had three saves Saturday, despite 19 shots taken by the Blazers.
As the game progressed, Lindhurst’s shots missed higher and wider.
“We didn’t play exceptionally well,” Kopec said. “We could have played a lot better. There would be glimpses and times during the game that we were making good connections.
“In the last 10 minutes, we had momentum. (The Blazers) were looking like they were tired, and I didn’t want to go into overtime.”
Only the referee knew how much time was remaining when Usvat was called for the handball.
As Zeischegg lined up for the shot from about 30 feet away, he was more concerned about the weather than his approach.
“I knew what I was going to do, ’cause I’ve been practicing the P.K. for a couple years,” he said. “I was just worried about the wet ground and slipping.”
To contact Sports Writer Jeff Miller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4247.
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As far as experts go, The Union’s “experts” have not exactly lived up to the billing so far this season.