OCALA — It took 100 minutes and 16 penalty kicks, but top-seeded Forest finally claimed the 5A-7 district crown with an unlikely 3-2 victory (7-6 on penalty kicks) over Central on Friday night.
Junior keeper Jordan Crown, who had been on the wrong end of six Bears PKs, was able to flip roles and bang in the deciding goal past a diving Anthony Kaspars.
"I never thought I would even be given the chance — it's absolutely insane," Crown said. "I'm a goalie. I mean, how many times do I shoot in the winning goal? It's overwhelming. The best feeling I've had in a while."
The Wildcats (21-3) were on the ropes much of the night, trailing the aggressive Bears 1-0 and 2-1 before forward Josh Ciambella converted a spinning left-footer to knot the score at 2 with less than four minutes to play.
No. 3 seed Central (11-4-3) got goals from Omar Oudlaja and Christian Velasquez. Two 10-minute overtimes yielded no goals.
After fellow FHS keeper Jeremiah Oram netted his PK opportunity to tie it at six penalty kicks each, Crown took his familiar spot in goal.
The junior keeper watched Brandon Miller's shot sail wide left and got the call from coach Melvin Valenzuela to win it.
He did just that, sticking it in the back of the net and exorcising the demons of missed opportunities on the defensive end.
"To be honest, I just looked at the ball and kicked it," Crown said of deciding PK. "I was getting really frustrated not blocking any, because throughout my career at Forest I've blocked 8 out of 8 PKs, and I couldn't block one tonight. It was killing me, so when they missed one I was like, 'Okay, this has got to be it.' "