Going into the 78th minute of the game, it looked as if the Southwestern High School boys soccer team was headed for another deadlocked game. The Warriors were tied with Richmond Model, 2-2, with just 120 seconds left in the match.
However, Southwestern junior Riley Whitis intercepted a lazy Model pass near midfield, and drove the ball all the way to the goal for the game-winning score. Southwestern picked up their first win of the season in the 3-2 victory over Model on Thursday at The Plains.
"Riley has been awesome for us this season," Southwestern boys soccer coach Sean McBride stated. "That's not the first time he has done that, because he has done that in some of our scrimmages. He has been kind of a spark offensively for us this year. He is consistent, he brings in a lot of energy, and when he shoots the ball he puts it on frame most of the time. I wish I had 11 players that worked as hard as him."
Whitis streaked down the left side of the field, outrunning every other Model defender except their keeper. Whitis shot from about 10 yards out to find the corner of the net.
"We were playing intense the whole game and it was a great game by both teams," Whitis stated. "I just got the ball and found an opening. I tucked it away in the bottom corner, and we got the 'dub' (W or win).That's all it is."
Earlier in the game, Whitis was so fatigued, he had to ask Coach McBride to take him out for a breather. Whitis laid lifeless on the sidelines for a few minutes to get his energy back.
And once he re-entered, he had his energy back and he then went on to take the game back for the Warriors.
"Coach McBride wants us to play as hard as we can and as much as we can," Whitis explained. "Once we get tired he wants us to get a sub in, and be ready to go right back in there and play as hard as we can again. That's what we all did today to pull out the 'dub'."
But up until Whitis' heroics, the Warriors were being outshot and out-possessed by the visiting Richmond Model squad. For the game, Model outshot the Warriors 18-10 and Model possessed the ball for a good portion of the match.
However, Southwestern's defense did not allow many good shot attempts by Model and Warrior senior keeper Caleb Seward had 10 saves in the contest.
"Our keeper and our defensive played good overall," McBride explained. "We stayed organized and we did a good job giving Model tough shot angles. We didn't deserve to win this game. The game was probably '80-20' possession wise in favor of Model."
In the fourth minute of play, Model dominated possession of the ball but a misplayed punt by the Model keeper opened the door for the Warriors' first score. Southwestern junior John Noyola came up with the ball near midfield and found himself with a open field. Noyola brought the ball all the way within five yards of the goal for his score to put the Warriors up 1-0.
However one minute later, Richmond Model countered with a score by Christopher Tioukalov off an assist by Thomas Chadwell to deadlock the game at 1-1.
In the 23rd minute, Southwestern regained the lead when Aldo Flores scored off a deflection at goal. Om a corner kick put in play by Noyola, Keegan McDaniel sent a header towards the goal, which Flores deflected for the score.
Southwestern led at halftime 2-1, but Richmond Model came up with the equalizer six minutes into the second half. Model's Chadwell blocked a Warriors' pass near midfield, which led to a breakaway score near the goal.
"We are still making the same mistakes we have been working on in practice, and we just got to learn to pick up on some stuff," McBride complained. "We better start picking it up quickly, or we are going to have a long season. I am happy we got the win, and we left a few goals out there, but overall I am not happy with our effort."
Southwestern (1-0-1) will host George Rogers Clark on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Plains.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.