Northwestern's 4-2 win over Fort Mill on Wednesday produced the type of goals that normally aren't seen.
The No. 3-ranked Trojans got three penalty kick shots from 12 yards out and made all three. Each time it was one-on-one, Northwestern's Ricardo Garbanzo against Fort Mill goalie Harrison Cahill. Fort Mill also had a penalty shot, a goal by Jack Gantzer that cut the Trojans' lead to one.
"I thought all of the penalty shots were the right decisions by the referees,'' Northwestern coach Dom Wren said. "You usually don't see that many in a game, but the level of combinations we play in the box and moving the ball quickly when we get there can end up with PKs.
"This is a great rivalry, one with two good teams playing the right way. Fort Mill played a great game. It's good to have two teams of this caliber in our region.''
Thoughts of an upset crept into the minds of the Fort Mill fans and the buzz grew louder after the Yellow Jackets took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half. But the buzz turned to groans after Garbanzo nailed his first penalty shot and tied the game at 1-1.
There have been close games between the two local powerhouses for years. The last time Fort Mill beat Northwestern was in another close game, 1-0, in 2006. This one gets packed away as another classic; another close one that Fort Mill let slip away.
"I agreed with ever penalty call but one,'' Fort Mill coach Lloyd Chalker said. "It is what it is and you can't do much about it.
"We seem to always come out a little tentative against Northwestern. I told our guys before the game that we could win. We missed two shots in the first half that would have put us up 3-nill. I believe our kids realize now that we can compete with Northwestern.''
Northwestern (7-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 3-AAAA) wasted little time in starting its breakaway from the Yellow Jackets coming out of the intermission. Dennis Moore controlled the ball and dribbled straight at Fort Mill's goal.
Moore pulled up about 20 yards from the goal and fired a shot toward the net. The ball blazed past Yellow Jackets goalie Cahill, and the Trojans led 2-1 a minute and two seconds into the final 40 minutes.
It appeared the Trojans were primed for another of their signature runs with 26:18 remaining. Garbanzo was fouled and his penalty kick from 12 yards out found the back of the net for a 3-1 Northwestern lead.
But less than a minute later, Northwestern fouled and set up a Fort Mill penalty kick by Gantzer. He lofted his kick and the ball was still airborne when it crashed into the right corner of the net. His goal cut the score to 3-2.
Garbanzo was fouled inside the box again with 14:32 left and made his third PK of the game, his 10th of the season.
"I never expected to score on three penalty kicks,'' Garbanzo said. "I figured the scoring would come the normal way. I seem to get caught up inside the box and get fouled a lot. Then it's up to me to make them kick.''
Defense ruled the opening half. Most of the first 20 minutes could be found on Fort Mill's side of the field. But every time the Trojans got close a Yellow Jackets defender stepped forward and made another stop.
Nearly halfway in the first 40 minutes, Fort Mill (6-1-1 and 1-1) put the first point on the board. Blanked by two Northwestern defenders, Fort Mill's Corbin Payne kept control of the ball after an assist from David Walas.
He fought off the challenge, slowed his pace and lifted a pooch shot over the defenders and over the head of Northwestern goalie Sam Faris, who was unable to reach the ball before it settled into the back right corner of the net.
Fort Mill had two scoring opportunities that missed the net, one early and another late in the half. Both shots were off the foot of Michael Borer. Ten minutes in, Borer had a shot from the left side that had the look of a sure goal, but the ball bounced off the frame.
Later in the half, Borer had a straight shot on net, but he didn't put enough zip on the ball and it slowly rolled into Faris' hands at the 7:16 mark.
It's never wise to let up even a second on the Trojans and their first goal came with 4:10 left in the half. Garbanzo set up for a penalty kick from 12 yards out. The shot was set up because Cahill fouled Garbanzo in the box.
Garbanzo's kick was close to the ground, but escaped Cahill's grasp and tied the game at 1-1. It stayed that way until the half.
"We had to regroup at the half,'' Wren said. "I told them we had to go back out and execute on our technical aspects. We had to find more opportunities to turn Fort Mill defenders' backs toward their own goal.''
FORT MILL 2
FM - Corbin Payne, 22:37, assist (David Walas)
NH - Ricardo Garbanzo PK, 4:10
NH - Dennis Moore, 8:58, unassisted
NH - Garbanzo PK, 27:06
FM - Jack Gantzer PK, 25:30
NH - Garbanzo PK, 14:30
Shots on goal -- Northwestern 13, Fort Mill 8
Corner kicks -- Northwestern 4, Fort Mill 1
Goalies -- Northwestern: Sam Faris (2 saves); Fort Mill: Harrison Cahill (3 saves).
Records: Northwestern 7-1, 2-0 Region 3-AAAA, Fort Mill 6-1-1, 1-1 Region 3-AAA