Michael Didion and Bayden Lee pride themselves on being soccer players whose skills are demonstrated when it means the most.
That was certainly the case Monday night, as Carroll defeated Homestead 1-0 in penalty kicks – assuring the Chargers at least a share of the NHC title.
Didion made the only save of the penalty kicks – making a diving stop on David Rincon – and Lee’s goal on the final shot clinched the game, setting off a raucous celebration at Carroll.
“It was a tense game and we really wanted to win this one,” Lee said, after the Senior Night victory.
“It’s the last night here for a lot of us, and we wanted to win. We’re not done yet. We’ve got one more game with Columbia City and we’re not going to take them lightly. But we could win this conference championship.”
While the game was closely contested throughout – Carroll had a slight edge in the first half, and Homestead in the second – it certainly was the Spartans’ to have.
In the final 12 minutes of regulation, Homestead had five terrific scoring opportunities, four of them from Anthony Jimenez, who had a cut opened up on the back of his head during the first half, had to leave the game a couple times because of it and had his physician father suture the wound during halftime.
The best Jimenez chance came with just seconds left, when defender Austin Hoffman deflected the ball out of bounds after a shot from the penalty area.
“I did my job tonight, but I still think the defense played one heck of a game. They saved me and I saved them. That’s what brothers do,” said Didion, whose save in penalty kicks came in the second round, when he dove low and to his right.
“I basically read it and went to that side. Thank God he kicked it pretty near me and I was able to save it,” Didion said.
Carroll (12-0-3, 6-0 NHC), which is ranked ninth in Class 2A, also got goals in penalty kicks from Ben Johnson, Tyler Sidwell, Kyle Hoagland and Ibrahim Al-awadi, all against goalkeeper Brenden Spangler.
Scoring for Homestead (8-4-3, 5-1) were Jimenez, Tyler George, Nathan Mohamedali and Nick Anderson, who after his goal had some words with Lee and then motioned for sound from the Homestead crowd – all in a failed effort to rattle his opponent before his winning tally.
So was Lee the tiniest bit nervous?
“Well, you know, not really,” he said. “I love taking PKs, especially in that type of a moment. I live for that kind of stuff.”
But Lee was quick to give credit to his goalkeeper, Didion, for his heroics, too.
“Mike played one heck of a game today,” Lee said. “He saved us on a bunch and we really just had to pull out that one for Mike. That was all goalkeeping today.”