With 29 seconds left in the game, and the score at 2-2, the Maize Eagles had all the momentum and the field position it needed to win against Goddard Eisenhower. Now, all they needed was a goal.
Goalkeeper Jeff Light played it in to the Eagles’ offense, getting it to midfielder Tyler Coleman. Coleman, in turn, played it to forward Jose Diaz. Despite Eisenhower’s tough defense, Diaz showed no hesitation in taking the shot, and it whizzed by the Eisenhower goalkeeper and into the net.
The Maize fans and players were ecstatic with celebration. Diaz slung off his jersey and, surrounding by a host of cheering teammates, did a cartwheel and front-flip roll on the field, which eventually resulted in a yellow card from the referee.
But, Diaz didn’t seem to care too much. His team had the lead, and after 29 more seconds ticked by, they had the game, too.
“It felt amazing,” Diaz said of the goal. “The whole team played well tonight. I think we had a good season. There were a couple of bad games, but everything else was fine.”
In the final game of the regular season, Diaz’s last-second goal helped the Eagles defeat Goddard Eisenhower 3-2 Thursday night, during the Tigers’ senior night.
The first half, though, was all Eisenhower’s.
Within the first five minutes, the Tigers scored the first goal of the night when Corey Bozarth netted the ball off an assist from Thomson Ticum.
With about 12 minutes left in the first half, Maize goalkeeper Light was playing ball forward and was looking for teammates downfield. He mishit the ball, and it flew directly toward Eisenhower’s Bozarth, who shot the ball into the unguarded net from 25 yards out.
“It was a gift that we gave them,” Maize coach Jay Holmes said of the goal. “I thought, overall, we were really flat in the first half, and it took a 2-0 deficit to get them fired up, and that was what really disappointed me.”
The Eagles fired back the rest of the first half, and into the second, taking up the bulk of the field positioning and the possession time. But, the Eisenhower defense was prepared and goalkeeper ##### made several key saves for the Tigers. Maize wasn’t able to score its first goal until 20 minutes into the second half, when defender Hayden Morrison scored from 10 yards out on a throw-in ball.
Maize continued its offensive strike, which left Eisenhower with very little opportunity to score another goal of its own. The Tigers tried to make a few more breakaway plays, but Maize’s defenders overpowered the Tiger forwards and took possession again.
With six minutes left in the game, Maize’s midfielder Coleman netted a centerfield kick from 8 yards out, giving the Eagles hope and additional momentum.
The Eisenhower offense scrambled to make a key play, but the Maize pressure was too great, and the Eagles tried to keep the ball on the Tigers’ half of the field.
Diaz’s goal sealed Maize’s victory, and the Eagle’s post-game huddle was contagious with excitement and celebration.
“We just struggled scoring goals early,” Holmes said. “In the first half, when we have five or six golden opportunities, and you don’t put them away—and then when you allow a couple—you put yourself in a very tough position. And fortunately we were able to do that tonight. We were able to persevere and overcome, but we were very lucky tonight to come back from a 2-0 deficit.”
The Eisenhower players took their traditional ‘leave’ of the fans, by walking across the field and—through gestures and glances—silently thanking the Tiger faithful for their support during the game and the regular season.
“It was the best game we played all year,” Eisenhower coach Rick Childs said. “There was tremendous effort from beginning to end. They left everything out on the field, and on senior night, that’s the way we wanted them to go out. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Childs said, despite the team’s record, he was happy with the Tigers’ season. He confirmed he will be retiring from coaching soccer at the end of this year.
“It’s been a fun season,” he said. “This is a great bunch of kids to work with, and the nucleus of this team is going to be pretty strong next year. Things are looking up for the program, and that’s the way things should be.”
Now, both teams will look to the regional playoffs, which will be announced Friday and begin next week.
“I’m just proud of the boys for cutting that deficit and winning the game tonight,” Holmes said. “It was huge. Now, we’ll be a 3-seed and not a 4-seed, so we should host a regional game.”
For Maize to have the best chance of succeeding in the coming regional games, Holmes said his team will have to continue that same attitude of perseverance and focus.
“We’re going to have to play a complete game, both Tuesday and Thursday,” he said. “We can’t play just a good half, like we did tonight. We’re going to have to put it all together to be successful next week.”
Childs said the momentum from Eisenhower’s strong performance Thursday night should help his team better prepare for next week’s games.
“If we can come out and play this hard next week,” he said, “then I think we can surprise somebody next week, too.”