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WHARTON ON TO FIRST FINAL

When he sent his corner kick into play, Will Hunt hoped for the best. When he headed the ball, Matt Montgomery thought he got too much of it. When the ball found its way into the net, neither player could believe what he had seen.

"Amazing," Hunt said.

"Incredible," added Montgomery.

To Wharton, it was all of that and more. Behind Montgomery's goal, which came in the fourth minute of the second overtime Tuesday, the Wildcats beat their biggest rival 1-0 and advanced to their first region final.

"I'm stunned," Montgomery said. "Shocked."

So was Freedom (21-6), which was hoping to avenge a loss in the district finals to Wharton (15-5-2). In that game, the Wildcats won 2-1 on penalty kicks.

"This one," Montgomery said, "is even sweeter."

During regulation, both teams had chances. Wharton missed a shot from point-blank range in the opening half. Early in the second, one Freedom shot hit the crossbar and another bounced off the post.

"We had our opportunities to score, and they had their opportunities to score," Patriots coach Dennis Derflinger said.

By the second overtime, players from both teams appeared to be dragging and it looked as though penalty kicks would decide it. But Wharton mounted an attack that led to a corner.

Hunt surveyed the field, then picked a spot. He saw Montgomery raise his hand and fired away. As the ball approached Montgomery, he left the ground and flicked it into the top shelf. Game over.

"It feels great," Montgomery said.

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