Hopewell Grabs Overtime Win, Heads To Finals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 29, 2014, 22:45
Scott Layne celebrates his overtime goal which clinched the win for Hopewell.
HOPEWELL — Through a season filled with injuries, close losses and seemingly very little breaks going their way, there was one thing pushing the Blue Devils to the season's conclusion. It was the promise of the Conference 26 Tournament representing a new season and a chance to wash away all that held them back during the regular season.
Yet, over the first 15 minutes of action, it was Thomas Jefferson possessing the ball and connecting passes at a higher completion rate than the No. 2 seeded Blue Devils. However, Hopewell would correct its earlier miscues by playing organized in the back with tremendous defense from Austin Sutton and slowly pushing up the pitch. As the whistle blew to end the first half, momentum was with Hopewell and it didn't take them long to capitalize in the second half of play.
In the 54' minute, Tyler Jordan fired an in-swinging corner which found the shoulder of Felipe Navarro. Navarro didn't hesitate in flicking it toward net over the goalkeeper's outstretched reach and to the foot of Quaron Fitzgerald to give the Blue Devils the lead. Yet, the sheer joy would come to a crashing halt in the 61' minute as Thomas Jefferson answered off a set-piece of their own to tie the game.
Twenty additional minutes passed without a goal and as the sides gathered near their respective benches, Hopewell coach Brad Dalton fired up his team, reminding them this is what they worked for all season long. And in the overtime period, it was Scott Layne finding net in the 85' minute off a cross from Kolbe Granderson, which incited delirium on the Hopewell sidelines.
Dalton soared into the air with the Blue Devils' substitutes with hands sky-high as they closed on a goal. Five minutes later and it was complete. Hopewell had a 2-1 victory over Thomas Jefferson, clinching a berth into the Conference 26 Tournament final and a berth into the Region Tournament for the first time in program history.
But most fittingly, it was the way Hopewell left their mark by battling back and never quitting. It's what they did all year long without getting the result they wanted, but when it mattered most, they came out on the winning end.
"It's what we've done all season long," Dalton said with a laugh after the biggest win in program history. "This team does not know what it means to quit. There were a couple of times tonight where we could have just rolled over, but we do what we do. We get up. We play hard and believe in ourselves."
No one represented that mentality better than the senior who clinched the victory with his overtime goal.
Layne was a danger man for Hopewell all game long, creating chances for himself in the box and others on the flanks, but could not find the back of the net. While most players would grow frustrated, Layne didn't allow the missed opportunities to cloud his judgement and instead pushed forward with everything he had.
There was Layne's one-on-one chance in the 30' minute of the contest on a breakaway, but his opportunity was wasted when Thomas Jefferson's keeper challenged him inside the box. Then, late in the match there was Layne shooting from distance which was blocked off by the goalkeeper, resulting in a corner kick chance for the Blue Devils.
Yet, Layne also helped out on the defensive side of the ball in the first half, halting a Thomas Jefferson defender who got in behind the defense with nothing but net in front of him. It's the type of play Dalton has seen from the senior over the final part of the season and knew he was capable of all along.
"Over the last month, he's played the way I knew he was capable of over the last two years," Dalton explained. "Whether it's because he's a senior and knows his career is coming to an end, but he's put it in another gear. He's been the difference-maker."
But he was not alone in a victory which required the help of every player on the roster.
There was Brent Hamilton chasing down Thomas Jefferson runs and clearing the ball out of danger. There was goalkeeper Owen Apprahamien making a key late-game save to keep the Blue Devils in it. There was also Granderson playing the lone striker role to sublime perfection with his ability to hold-up the run of play with his physicality and then there was Jordan who continued to show why he's such an important piece to the Blue Devils' puzzle.
Quaran Fitzgerald scored the first goal of the game for the Blue Devils with a second half strike
In the biggest game of his career, Jordan could not have had a better effort. His work-rate was second-to-none as he chased down any loose ball in the offensive zone while also taking on opposing defenders in one-on-one battles. Yet, it was his crosses which began to turn the tide while creating numerous scoring chances for Hopewell.
In stoppage time, Jordan beat his man down the left-flank before sending a perfect cross to Felipe Navarro in the box whose left-footed shot floated just wide of frame. It was just one example of the type impact the senior captain can have on the field when given even the smallest amount of space.
"We had so many chances because of his deliveries," Dalton said. "I said it all year, I thought if we could get to this point, good things were going to happen."
In the biggest game of the season, Hopewell earned its biggest result in program history. However, another 80 minutes of soccer remains for the Blue Devils to reach their ultimate goal of being conference champions. Yet, it would be hard to bet against a team that is both healthy and confident after an exhilarating semifinal win.