Senior Fernando Canella knocked in a walk off score to give his Somerset Briar Jumpers a 3-2 victory in the first round of the 12th Region tournament over the Mercer County Titans in a sudden death third period.
The Briar Jumpers missed two easy shots inside the final three minutes of the second half. First, junior Matt Coffey over kicked a wide-open shot in the box with the Mercer goalkeeper on the ground. A few minutes later, junior Derek Arias was pushed to the ground on a promising run which gave Somerset a penalty kick inside the box. Senior Tommy Wombles cut the penalty kick just right of the net with just over a minute left.
Inside the one-minute mark of the half, with the teams even at 2-2,Titan senior Hunter Booth made a break for the goal and pushed it past several Somerset defenders. He took an open shot from just behind the box but sent it just over the net with four seconds left which sent the game to overtime.
With five minutes to score, Somerset wasted no time pushing it into Mercer territory. They immediately attacked the box with a hard attempt by Carlos Sandoval. Goalkeeper Aiden West dove and deflected the attempt, but with West on the ground Canella smashed it in for the Briar Jumper victory.
"I think you know exactly how I feel about," said Somerset head coach Brian Blankenship when asked about his feelings about the 12th Region win. "That was a big game for us. We've come a long way this year. We felt like we could put it together and Mercer is a great team. We knew that they had gotten better, and we've gotten better. We knew this would be a gut fight. Obviously, it was, and we just needed a little bit of luck on our side. We didn't have any luck earlier in the year, so I was glad to see that we had some. We put Fernando in, who is a senior. He took a big chance, took it in, and put it home for us. It was just great."
Earlier in the game, Somerset was on the attack right out of the gate. They spent three minutes on a relentless attack and got a pair of solid attempts by Arias and Coffey.
With just under thirty-seven minutes left in the opening period, Arias took a nice pass from Josh Tucker, drove it in close and sent it just past West to put his Jumpers up 1-0 very early.
Later, with just under twenty-four minutes in the first, Booth sent a ball just past Somerset goalkeeper Dylan Jasper to even up the score.
After a few unsuccessful but very close attempts by the Briar Jumpers, they finally got one to fall. With around seventeen minutes left before halftime, senior KJ Shand knocked in a ball off a throw in from fellow senior Tommy Wombles to put Somerset up 2-1.
Just inside the ten-minute mark of the first period, again Booth was able to even up the score. This time Booth's score was off a penalty kick that deflected off the left pole of the net and back into the net for the Titan score.
With the score even at 2-2 after the break, the teams battled back and forth for possessions and attempts throughout the second period. Neither were able to put the ball in the net, which led to the Jumper victory in an extra period.
"I thought we had each other's back" said coach Blankenship. "We missed that PK late, but most teams will crumble, and I just told our guys we got it, we're going to cover it and we're going to do it. They believed it. We have confidence in one another, we support one another, and they enjoy playing with each other. I'm just so, so proud of them for working as a unit and playing hard."