Wildcats run out of time

The Oak Harbor soccer team did everything they could to tie up their playoff game against Mariner on Tuesday, but they ended up running out of time.

The Marauders jumped out to a 2-0 lead and withheld a furious Oak Harbor rally in the final 20 minutes to pick up a 2-1 win over the Wildcats at Memorial Stadium in the first round of the district playoffs.

“It was a wonderful season and tonights game shouldn’t take anything away from that,” said head coach Steve Barker after the contest. “We played our best soccer of the year at times. We missed too many early chances, but the game was ours to win.”

Staring at a two-goal deficit with 12 minutes remaining in the game, junior Cody Parker got the Wildcats back in the contest. Parker was fouled bringing the ball down the left wing near the Mariner box. On the ensuing free kick, Alex Fulwiler found Parker in the box and he chipped the ball in to get the Cats on the board.

“I saw it coming and I just put it in,” said Parker about his goal after the game.

After the Cats scored they turned the heat up on the Marauders and had several good chances to get the equalizer as the clock was winding down. On an Oak Harbor corner, junior Chad Asmus had a chance but was just wide right. Several moments later striker Grant Bull, who was playing on a badly sprained ankle, struck a beautiful half volley that just missed going in.

“This sounds like an excuse but this is the first game that Grant Bull has been back in three weeks and (senior midfielder) Brent Thompson was sick in the hospital all week hooked up to IVs,” Barker said. “And then we had two balls go off the post in the second half. It’s tough, but those things happen in soccer.”

As the game moved into injury time, the Wildcats continued to put pressure on the Marauders. Senior Micah Pruss received the ball in the box with plenty of space but was pushed over by a Mariner defender. With the Wildcat fans and bench screaming for a foul and a penalty kick, the referee ordered play to continue.

“I guess the ref didn’t see it,” Parker said. “It should have been a PK.”

His coach agreed, but also realized that the Cats shouldn’t have been in the position to begin with.

“It should have been called and it didn’t and that is unfortunate, but you just can’t put the game in the hands of the referee,” Barker said.

Oak Harbor had one last chance. The Cats were awarded one final corner and Asmus got the ball on the far side of the box, but his shot was blocked by a Mariner player. As the ball was cleared the ref blew the whistle on the game and the Wildcats season.

Despite the loss the year was a big success for the Wildcats, who finished third in the Wesco North Division and made the postseason for the first time since 1994. The team loses seven seniors, but will return a talented core of players that should help them contend again next year.

“The seniors gave us something for next year – they don’t know it but they did,” Barker said. “And we have a good group coming back.”

Barker was also pleased with how hard-working and dedicated the entire squad was throughout the season.

“It was a pleasure to work with all these kids this season,” he said. “The kids who didn’t get much playing time this season had great attitudes. You have to have kids who are willing to work and this team did that all year.”

Oak Harbor was in control of the game from the opening whistle but they just couldn’t put the ball in the net to gain the advantage.

The Wildcats had the first good scoring chance of the night when in the 13th minute Kyle Kingma blasted a Dustin VanVelkinburgh corner kick of the crossbar.

After that momentum swung Mariner’s way and they almost took advantage of a couple of Oak Harbor mistakes in their own end. A Marauders forward stole a misplayed free kick and was looking at an open Wildcat net but put his shot wide left.

“After we didn’t score in the opening minutes it took us about 50 minutes to get back in the flow of the game,” Barker said. “We were looking for the right combination of players.”

Mariner finally got on the board in the 25th minute when after several crisp passes, freshman David Cohn found the back of the net to make the score 1-0.

Near the end of the half Mariner had another scoring chance, getting the ball past Wildcat goalie James Moreno, but sophomore defender Ryne Fakkema was able to clear the ball before it rolled across the goal line.

The Marauders made it 2-0 in the opening minutes of the second half on an unlucky play for the Cats. A Wildcat clearing shot hit a Mariner player right in the face and the ball fell to the feet of teammate Mike Desimone who knocked it past Moreno for the second goal of the game.

Each team had a goal disallowed in the second half. In the 52nd minute the Cats had a score waved off when the referee determined that Parker had pushed the Mariner goalkeeper while he was going for the ball.

With the win Mariner (9-7-1) advanced to play undefeated Jackson in the second round on Wednesday.

Mariner 2, Oak Harbor 1

At Oak Harbor

Goals-Mariner: Desimone, Cohn. Oak Harbor: Parker. Goalkeepers-Mariner: Billen. Oak Harbor: Moreno. Records-Mariner 6-4-0 in division, 9-7-1 overall. Oak Harbor 9-6-2, 9-6-2.

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