CROWN POINT| Connor Keaveney dove to the ground in the midst of a shootout and was pulled to his feet by his victorious teammates.
The Crown Point keeper blocked a shot from Valparaiso’s Caleb Neal in the 12th round of a shootout that gave the Times No. 1 Bulldogs sole possession of first place in the Duneland Athletic Conference with a 1-1 victory (10-9 on penalty kicks).
The Bulldogs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat after tying the match in the 77th minute and recovering from two missed kicks in the shootout.
“I have an overwhelming feeling of happiness right now,” Keaveney said. “I never worried once that we weren’t going to pull this out. We attacked all night long and, we came away with the win.”
The No. 2 Vikings (7-2-1, 4-1 DAC) dominated possession in a scoreless first half that featured a 15-minute power outage. Bulldog Field went pitch black in the fourth minute of the match, further delaying a contest between the top two teams in the area that was postponed because of severe weather on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (9-0, 5-0) controlled the tempo at the beginning of the second half, firing off five shots in the opening four minutes only to watch Valparaiso’s Brendan Sutherland break away from the pack and drive a perfect shot past a diving Keaveney. The goal was just the third surrendered by Crown Point all season.
“We persevered for the entire night,” Crown Point coach Mike Bazin said. “They had the momentum, but our guys never got rattled. You need these kind of games as proof that you can persevere through adversity.”
Carmello Morales atoned for two misses earlier in the match with the equalizer in the 77th minute that helped send the match to overtime. Both coaches used plenty of substitutions as players were cramping on the field throughout the night. Valparaiso defender Nate Dawson had to be carried from the field with just over five minutes remaining in the second overtime.
“My guys left everything they had on the field,” Valparaiso coach Danny Jeftich said. “We kept our composure and executed our game plan right up until the very end.”
The conference rivals were tied at four goals apiece after the first wave of the shootout. Once sudden death began, the two teams made another goal each until both squads missed a shot. Each team would make five more goals before Morales connected on his second shootout goal of the night. With the match on the line, Keaveney came up big with a block against Neal.
“I’ve been in shootouts before, but nothing like this,” Keaveney said. “All the pressure is on the players and the keepers just get all the adrenaline. I love this.”