CELEBRATION — Sunlake goalkeeper David Danahy will have a difficult time forgetting his miss in a penalty kick shootout that gave Celebration a 1-0 (4-3 penalty kicks) victory and the region crown.
But in all fairness, the Seahawks never would have made it to a shootout, through two overtime periods or, in reality, the region final if it weren't for the phenomenal play of their senior netminder.
Time and time again during Friday's first region final game for Sunlake (21-9-1), Danahy saved a shot and, in turn, saved the Seahawks.
He made countless saves diving to his left and right. He leapt high to sprawl out and protect the top corners of his goal. At one point in the second half, Danahy stopped a sure goal from the seat of his pants by sticking his hand out while sitting on the grass.
In short, Danahy played the game of his life.
"Without him, we wouldn't have even been in the game," Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk said.
Celebration unleashed 18 shots at Danahy through 80 minutes of regulation play and another 20 of overtime, and Danahy saved all 18.
In a winner-take-all shootout with a spot in the Class 4A state semifinals on the line, Danahy had enough left in him for one final, crucial stop with his team trailing 4-3 in the shootout and Celebration (16-1-3) one make away from the win.
Then, needing to make a shot of his own to send the shootout into another round, Danahy's right-footed attempt scraped off the outside of the left post and rolled harmlessly away from goal to end an improbable run for the Seahawks.
"It's the luck of the draw," Koleduk said. "You never know with penalty kicks."
Sunlake had opportunities to score in regulation, particularly in the opening minutes. Leading scorer Jordan Landry had a long ball played to his feet deep in Celebration territory in the second minute, but he pushed his shot just wide of the far post.
Another scoring chance for Landry in the fourth minute again went across the goalmouth and out of play, a foot or two from hitting the far post. Moments later, Landry lined one up from 35 yards and forced Celebration goalkeeper John Birchall to dive, but again the shot narrowly missed the target.
"That was a turning point," Koleduk said. "I think if we stick one in, we're good enough to hold teams."
Celebration controlled play for most of the second half, forcing Danahy to come up with a herculean effort to keep the Storm off the scoreboard. Sunlake lost its patience after the break, opting to send long balls up the field that resulted in quick giveaways and an almost total domination of possession by Celebration.
"I think being so young hurt us so much today," Koleduk said.