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LIMA — Gancalo Branco kicked in the overtime golden goal, lifted a finger to his mouth almost as if to silence any fears that the score New Knoxville gave up in the closing minutes of regulation would be too big an emotional hurdle to overcome and then was mobbed near midfield on the turf at Lima Stadium.
The New Knoxville boys soccer team bounced back from losing a late lead in regulation to clinch a 2-1 sudden-victory in overtime over Fort Jennings in a Division III sectional final on Saturday.
Photos — New Knoxville vs. Fort Jennings Div. III sectional soccer
Andrew Mackie fed Branco from the left side of the 18 and his shot had just enough to get past the goalie on the near post.
“It wasn’t a perfect shot,” Branco said. “I didn’t hit the ball well. The goalie was surprised. He didn’t expect the ball to go that side. It was a good surprise.”
New Knoxville reached a new school record in a season with its 11th win and will now face Liberty-Benton on Wednesday at Lima Stadium in a 7 p.m. match.
Branco, an exchange student from Portugal, played a new role for the Rangers this season and on Saturday. Not used to being counted on in key situations back in his home country, Branco is one of the leaders on a Ranger team that is reaching new heights in the postseason.
“He’s not used to being a star,” New Knoxville head coach Tony Hunt said. “At home, he’s just a role player, and he comes over here and as you can see he’s pretty much a standout. Our offense revolves around him.”
New Knoxville took a 1-0 lead on an Isaiah Oeding goal early in the second half at the 27:19 mark and appeared to be coasting towards the sectional title.
But Fort Jennings found a crease in the Ranger flatback four defense and Seth Ricker scored with just 7:32 left, momentarily stunning the Rangers. Fort Jennings narrowly missed on a second goal in the closing minutes of regulation, but a loose ball near the net was finally corralled by goalie Dean Frankenberg, who finished the game with four saves.
“Was it really that late?” Hunt asked. “It was later than I thought. All the momentum was on their side. We knew it was going to take two or three goals to beat them and we only got one. They were defending us with seven or eight guys and we just couldn’t poke through. They were only attacking with two guys and managed to find the back of the net. They were giving us the shots from 20’ on out, and you’re just not going to score against Fort Jennings from 25’ out.”
“They played mostly on defense,” Branco said. “They didn’t attack much, but they could’ve scored a second goal . We had a tough time after they scored.”
The five minute break between regulation and the overtime bucked up the spirits of the Rangers, who used Branco’s goal two-thirds of the way into the extra time to move on.
New Knoxville’s flatback four, led by Ryan Lageman and K.V. Mooney in the middle, held its own, giving up just the one goal.
“There’s a school record board up in the high school hallway they just put up and the team wins was the one the guys wanted most this year,” Hunt said. “It’s big-time for them.”
New Knoxville outshot Fort Jennings, 12-8.