It’s not often a student section is able to storm a field twice in one night — let alone in a 15-minute span — but that’s exactly what happened at Tiger Stadium Friday.
After a tightly-contested regulation and overtime — notched at 1-1 — Centralia boys soccer won in penalty kicks to beat rival W.F. West as students and fans stormed the field in celebration.
But it wasn’t over.
The two squads then had to square off again in PKs to decide the winner of the first-ever Chronicle Cup — being that the Bearcats had won the first matchup this season in PKs back on March 25.
And the Tigers came up clutch again as junior midfielder Darrell Neuert broke a 5-5 tie and sent the Tigers’ sixth PK middle and high past the Bearcats’ keeper to secure the inaugural Chronicle Cup.
It seemed like fate for Neuert, who was in this same exact situation last season against Aberdeen, where he converted the game-winner. This time, Neuert nearly closed his eyes as he uncorked the final kick.
“Part of it is luck, but part of it is being relaxed, being calm and just knowing you’ve got to do your best,” Neuert said. “And if you do your best, you’ll win. I knew I wouldn’t hit it over and I just left it up to God.”
Usually Neuert plans out exactly where he’s going to place the kick, but lately he’s been stuttering at the last second, waiting for the keeper to go to one side.
“But this was different,” Neuert said. “I didn’t want to do anything fancy, you know? Nice and simple. Hit it. That’s it.”
It worked as Neuert anticipated the Bearcats’ keeper would either slide to the left or right, then sent the ball high and to the middle, finding the back of the net.
Neuert dropped directly to the ground in relief as his teammates and Tiger students piled on him in celebration.
It was just the second time this season Centralia has beaten W.F. West in any sport this season — the first being a volleyball match — which made Friday’s victory that much more satisfying.
“It feels good for the boys,” Centralia coach Henry Gallanger said. “They did everything we asked them to do. They did an excellent job. It was the whole entire team. The entire bench, for the most part, contributed.”
It was an intensity-fueled game from the start as the Tigers struck first when Alan Cox headed in a goal off a corner kick in just the 10th minute.
But the Bearcats swung back about 17 minutes later when Elvis Leal Perez notched the equalizer in the 27th minute to tie it up at 1-1. From then on, it was back and forth.
After ending regulation with a tie, both teams had chances in the two five-minute overtimes, but neither team was able to punch one in. That sent it to PKs.
And while Centralia senior keeper Victory Reyes was solid in regulation and overtime, making multiple clutch saves to keep the Tigers in it, the Tigers’ other keeper, Carlos Hernandez, was the one who stepped up in PKs.
“Carlos is our PK guy,” Gallanger said. “Our goalkeepers are such a good unit and they know each other’s weaknesses. Victor locks it down in goal and is doing a good job. If we get into a PK situation, Carlos is the guy. Victory had a heck of a game the first 75 minutes. He did a good job anchoring that down.”
Hernandez came up big in the first round of PKs, helping the Tigers claim victory in the game, 5-4 in PKs, and setting up the second round of PKs to determine the winner of The Chronicle Cup.
And after both teams went 5 for 5 in Round 2, Hernandez made a save on the Bearcats’ sixth shot, setting up Neuert’s game-winning shot moments later as students stormed the field the second time.
“We’ve been motivated all season to be top four,” Gallanger said. “And we knew if we’re going to be top four, we have to pick off a game from a team that’s above us. And what better night to do that than when you’re home. We’re motivated to win a cup. So there’s double motivation.
“The looks on the kids’ faces, the look on the parents’ faces, that says a lot.”