Anything can happen when a soccer game comes down to a shootout.
In the Class AA boys' semifinal game, that meant Aberdeen Central would move on to its fourth straight state championship game and fifth in six years.
The No. 9 seeded Golden Eagles topped No. 4 seed Rapid City Central 2-1 on spot kicks after Jalini Peters put a ball by Dawson Fairchild in the sixth frame of the shootout to give Aberdeen the 3-2 edge.
"You build these things up and try to work these kids to get to a certain point to where they’re competitive in the playoffs, and they’ve just done a really good job," Aberdeen coach Steve Cogley said. "They’re doing the little things that it takes to win games."
For the Cobblers, it was heartbreak. After beating Sioux Falls Lincoln 2-0 in overtime in the first round and Sioux Falls O'Gorman 1-0 in the quarterfinal, they magic ran out and Rapid City finished the season 8-3-3.
"They’re pretty devastated by it," Cobbler coach Joe Sabrowski said. "The boys expected to win this one and felt like they could, they were confident, played physical. I thought in the last three games this was our best game moving the ball. They had it, it just didn’t go in. There’s not much more we can do."
The Golden Eagles scored their goal in the first half when in the 34th minute, a penalty was called in the box when an Aberdeen player was taken down from behind.
Frustrated, Fairchild punted the ball after the call was made, resulting in a yellow card and meaning he had to leave the field for one play. Jake Hilsendeger put the ball past a backup goalie without time to warm up, and the Golden Eagles went up one.
"The halftime discussion wasn’t pleasant," Sabrowski said. "I’m not going to allow any players to just take what needs to be said, I’m the one in charge, so we had to have that conversation, screw our heads back on and focus on the game instead of what’s happening that we can’t control. It’s a learning thing, we have to remember that there are things outside our control and we just have to play."
The Cobblers did come out in the second half more composed and controlled the pace of play for the entire 40 minutes. They finally broke onto the scoreboard early in the half when Garrett Cole floated a perfect free kick over the wall and into the goal to tie the game.
The rest of the half was a story of missed Rapid City opportunities. Passes that were floated in weren't finished, and shots missed, as the teams ended deadlocked at one.
"I thought in the second half we dominated play for the most part, had great scoring opportunities, but couldn’t put any in," Sabrowski said. "It could have turned into two, maybe three goals. We had great shot opportunities, great ball movement, pressure was better, the boys really worked hard."
Aberdeen did have some chances in the second half, but Fairchild rebounded from his first half yellow card to make numerous saves from point blank range to keep the score tied.
"We like to connect a lot with our nine, we weren’t keeping enough width with our outside guys. The anticipation of the game kept sucking them in. When we did connect and slow the game down I thought we did pretty well, we just didn’t want to get in a running match with them, that’s their strength," Cogley said. "We had chances, I can think of some really big ones we had and Fairchild make some saves and (Golden Eagle goalie) Reese (Meister) made some great saves."
In both overtime periods it was clear that both teams had run out of gas. Not many scoring opportunities came from either side in those 20 minutes, so the game went to penalty kicks, with Fairchild in goal for Rapid City and Meister in goal for Aberdeen.
The Cobblers started with a goal and a save, but the Golden Eagles followed up with the same thing in the second frame. The third and fourth frame saw both teams come up empty, and the fifth saw both score.
It was the sixth, where Rapid City missed and Peters scored for Aberdeen, that sent the Golden Eagles through to the championship game.
"Penalty kicks. I’ve won and lost championship games doing that, you just don’t know," Cogley said. "My hat’s off to Rapid City Central, my heart is breaking for those seniors, it was a heck of a soccer game and we were blessed enough to get the win."
Those seniors, according to Sabrowski, left a huge impact on the Cobbler program.
"My five seniors meant a lot. All five of them really contributed a lot," he said. "The senior group has been really fantastic, three of them are my captains and all the boys really look up to them and play hard for them."