Unbeaten Sunlake rallies in 2OT to beat Eastside

Eastside's Joseph Malu and Ryan Norberg of Sunlake jump for the ball during the Class 3A, Region 2 final at Citizens Field on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

Nearly 17 minutes after forcing overtime off a handball, Eastside fell victim to a fortuitous glance of its own in Tuesday night's Class 3A, Region 2 final.

The host Rams pushed an undefeated Land O'Lakes Sunlake team on a 29-game winning streak into two overtimes before losing 2-1 off a deflected golden goal at Citizens Field.

With 3:06 left to play before the end of second overtime, Sunlake sophomore Connor Spencer shot a ricocheting right-footer from seven yards out through two Eastside defenders and over the left hand of goalkeeper Cody Peterson.

“The last play, we had a little bad clearance there,” Eastside coach Ron Messick said. “But hats off to my defense. They played an excellent game. It's just one little mistake, so that's brutal how sports can be sometimes.”

After a 30th minute goal by Connor Kallenborn opened scoring for Sunlake, the Rams were able to control the run of play on a 13-6 shots on goal advantage but could not find an equalizer until the final four seconds of regulation.

In a desperate run down the right side of the penalty box, Eastside sophomore forward Tyler Miller-Jones tried a crossing pass before time expired. However, the outstretched right arm of a Seahawks defender impeded the ball's progress, forcing the referee to blow his whistle.

“I've been taking PKs ever since I was a little kid, and I don't miss them in games,” said Miller-Jones of his 23rd goal of the year. “I had the pressure on myself, but I was up to task so I did my job and (my teammates) did theirs.”

Behind the penalty-kick line, Miller-Jones took three smooth steps before striking the ball unimpeded into the upper right corner past Sunlake goalkeeper Daniel Hrenko, who guessed left and dove the opposite direction of the kick.

Despite needing a last-gasp conversion to tie the game at 1-goal apiece, the Rams felt their style of play gave them a chance against a Seahawks squad featuring Connor Gilboy, Pasco County's all-time record holder with 60 goals this season.

“Their goal might have been off of a handball, but they were giving us pressure all game,” Spencer said. “I think they actually deserved it.”

Eastside was able to keep Gilboy out of the goal on eight attempted shots and also force 12 offside calls on Sunlake's attackers.

Before the game could reach penalty kicks though, Spencer was finally able to break through the Rams' stingy defense with his game-winner to drop Eastside (22-3-2) from the regional semifinal round for the second straight year.

“I saw the ball going through and I thought, ‘I haven't taken a shot in a while. Maybe it's my turn and maybe something will come from it,'” Spencer said. “I took a shot, it got a nice deflection and it went in.”

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