For a team that scores goals in bunches, Northwest Whitfield’s boys soccer team had trouble putting the ball in the back of the net Tuesday night in Tunnel Hill.
But when it mattered most and with a penalty-kick shootout looming, the Bruins came through.
Northwest’s Giovanni Aguero scored the second of his two goals in the 90th minute as the Bruins beat Region 7-4A rival Rome 2-1 in extra time. The Lady Bruins lost earlier in the night to Rome, 4-2.
In the boys match, after Rome (7-4-1, 3-4) tied the match in the 45th minute on an Alex Reid goal, the Bruins (9-3, 6-1) spent the remaining 35 minutes of regulation time and most of the 10 minutes of extra time shoving the ball down the Wolves’ throats. However, each save from Rome goalkeeper Peter Clay, each shot just wide or high and each clank off the crossbar moved the game closer and closer to penalty kicks.
“I didn’t want to let it go into penalty kicks,” Aguero said.
In possibly Northwest’s final chance, Aguero put the ball into the goalie box on a throw-in, but a Rome defender headed it back out to him. The junior striker then took a shot from a difficult angle and laced the ball to the near post past Clay’s outstretched hands.
Each Bruin, from those on the field to those on the bench, dogpiled on top of Aguero in celebration. Seconds after Rome kicked off following the goal, the referees whistled for the end of the game.
“I just went crazy,” Aguero said. “Knowing that this win sends us to the playoffs, it felt great.”
The top four teams from each region advance to the Georgia High School Association’s Class 4A state playoffs. Northwest currently sits in second place behind Lambert, and coach Ryan Scoggins said the win locks up that spot for his Bruins, regardless of what happens in their remaining three region matches.
“Now the worst we can finish is 6-4, and the two teams below us, Rome and South Forsyth, we’ve beaten both of them and they can at best finish 6-4,” Scoggins said.
Northwest — which lengthened its winning streak to seven — took a total of 23 shots on goal compared to Rome’s eight. Clay made 13 saves and Bruins goalie Miguel Deanda only had to make four. However, he made the biggest one of the night.
With the game tied in the 55th minute, Rome was awarded a penalty kick after a foul was called in the box. Deanda dove to his right and made the save to keep the score tied.
“Obviously you have to make a penalty kick when you get the chance,” Rome coach Chris Cochran said. “We allowed it to get into overtime.”
Aguero scored the first goal of the game in the 12th minute, and Northwest had a number of additional attempts in the first half. However, the Bruins increased their efforts to score in the second half after the Wolves tied it up. But Rome kept surviving each barrage of attacks and shots from Northwest.
“I felt like we had a few more goals that we kind of left out there,” Scoggins said.
“We hit the post a couple of times, but credit their guys who got in the way of some, and their keeper did a great job. But we got the one that matters with only seconds to go.”
A total of 22 fouls were called, which set the tone for an extremely physical and chippy contest. Each team had one player receive a yellow card.
“The physical play was surprising because we usually play a clean game, but I think it was because they were hungry and we were hungry and had our backs against the wall,” Cochran said. “To be honest with you, they probably deserved this one because we’ve broken their hearts the last three or four years in a row. We’ve knocked them out of the playoffs for several years in a row, so I think justice was served tonight. They outplayed us.”
The physical play was just a product of a “good, friendly rivalry” between the two teams, Scoggins said.
“In the second half it got physical, and I think these coaches and players know each other. We always play Rome twice a year,” he said. “When we talked after the second half, we said we would try and put this thing away in the two five-minute overtimes. That was our goal.”
• Rome girls 4, Northwest 2: The Lady Bruins (4-8-1, 0-7) scored the first goal of the match, but Rome notched three straight in response.
Andrea Garcia scored in the ninth minute of the match to give Northwest a 1-0 lead. Rome responded with three goals from Theresa Stevens. Northwest’s Jessica Romero scored just before halftime to cut the lead to 3-2, but Stevens scored once more in the second half to put the game away.
“We were on spring break for the past 10 days, and I think it had an effect on us,” Lady Bruins coach Anna Stutts said. “We just have a couple of things we need to work on — coming to the ball and clearing the ball down field.”
Gracie Holmes had six saves for Northwest, which took a total of seven shots.