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SEMINOLE — As Seminole shots sailed over the cross bar or banged off the post in Saturday night’s Class 4A region semifinal against Northeast, Warhawks coach Rick Masi chose to remain positive. He refused to believe this would be another one of those games where his team failed to finish shots.
“I thought as many chances as we had, one of them has to go in,” Masi said.
One of them finally did.
With 19 minutes remaining and the score tied at 1-all, Nathan Yeager cleaned up a loose ball that hit off the post and knocked it in from point-blank range to give the Warhawks a 2-1 win over the Vikings.
Seminole (17-5-4) faces Naples Gulf Coast, which beat Naples Barron Collier 2-0 on penalty kicks, in the region final Tuesday. Northeast ends its season 13-6-1.
“The ball just landed at my feet,” Yeager said. “The goal is a huge box when you’re that close. I just had to kick it in.”
The winner was set up by a throw in from Travis Sly. Sly lofted a long, high throw-in 5 yards in front of the goal. Northeast keeper Ryan Taylor leapt to clear the ball and it bounced of his hands.
Seminole’s Liam Rafferty took a shot but it hit off the post. That’s when Yeager settled the ball and hit it into the open net.
Seminole controlled the action for much of the first half but only led by a goal.
In the 13th minute, a shot by Eric Sines went in the goal, but the Warhawks were called for a pushing foul and the goal was disallowed.
In the 23rd and 26th minutes, both Andrew Goodman and Shane Butler had shots hit off the goal post. But in the 33rd minute, Seminole finally broke through.
Butler gained possession about 30 yards from goal and slipped a perfect pass to a sprinting Rafferty. Rafferty ran past the defense and punched a shot from 10 yards under a diving Taylor to make it 1-0.
After surviving a few more close calls by Seminole, Northeast evened the game with 30 minutes to play. Stevie Rudderham worked his way free and crossed from deep in the left corner. Dylan Jones was unguarded in the box and tapped in the cross from 5 yards out to make it 1-1.
Then came Yeager’s heroics.
Even after Yeager’s goal, Seminole kept up the offensive pressure. Northeast had few chances in the final 19 minutes to get the equalizer.
The Warhawks, last year’s Class 4A state runners-up, defeated the Vikings three straight times this season.
“We live to see another day,” Masi said. “It’s not easy to beat a team three times in a season.”
5A: East Lake keeper takes an MVP turn
EAST LAKE — Throughout regulation, East Lake kept finding open spaces in front in the net. But the Eagles’ shots kept getting thwarted.
Plant did not have much luck either. That had to do as much with the play of the goalkeepers, who both displayed great reflexes, instinctive positioning and a proficiency for blocking shots. There were several spectacular saves.
This is how it went for most of Saturday’s Class 5A region semifinal, with both teams pushing the ball past midfield and into position to score, only to watch shots fall into the hands of the keepers.
After 80 minutes, a handful of legitimate opportunities and no goals, the game went to overtime
And after playing valiantly through two 10-minute overtime periods, the teams extended the game as far as it could go — to the drama of penalty kicks.
That’s where East Lake’s Jeff Richmond came up huge. He stopped two penalty kicks, including the final one on a one-handed snare that preserved a 1-0 victory (3-2 in PKs) for the Eagles.
“I wasn’t really nervous when we went into penalty kicks,” Richmond said. “I was more excited. I like penalty kicks.”
East Lake rotated its keepers through most of the season. But Richmond played the entire game, and kept smothering shots. His play was a big reason the Eagles decided to keep him in for penalty kicks.
“We basically went with the hot hand,” East Lake coach Alex Stenson said. “Jeff has really stepped up, and done a great job in the postseason.”
The Eagles (14-3-5) had several chances to win before going into overtime.
Josh Page, who had two goals in the region semifinals, had a shot that just sailed wide in the final two minutes of regulation.
In the first overtime, East Lake had another shot that hit off the top crossbar.
In penalty kicks, Brendan Weigley, a freshman, connected to give East Lake a 3-1 lead. Auston Molina hit one for Plant. Then the Panthers missed their final attempt.
That set up Richmond with a chance to seal the win.
“Their keeper came through and made some great saves,” Plant coach John Feeley said. “We played well all game. We just couldn’t convert the chances that we had.”
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer