It looked like the perfect script was about to be written for the West Deptford High School boys’ soccer team at Webber field, Tuesday night.
The Eagles were at home, under the lights, and had the momentum as overtime was set to begin in their game against Haddonfield. A sudden death goal would the Eagles their fourth-straight win and put them in position to make a run at bringing back the Colonial Conference Liberty Division title.
West Deptford head coach Steve Jakubowski reminded his players of that scenario moments before the overtime session began. Unfortunately, a little while later, the first-year coach was left consoling his players after a dramatic 3-2 double-overtime loss to the Bulldogs.
John Alemi scored four minutes into the second overtime, sparking a celebration from Haddonfield players late Tuesday night.
“It’s tough,” West Deptford midfielder Lewis Hunter said. “I think we are not physical enough at times. We could also be a little better with clearing balls out and getting it to the outside. It’s little stuff like that.”
The Eagles trailed 2-1 in the second half before Lewis tied the game by firing home a cross by Kevin Kean with 24 minutes left in regulation. The Eagles created several more scoring chances the rest of the way, but were unable to break the tie.
“I felt we played phenomenal in the second half,” Jakubowski said. “Guys really listened to what we talked about at halftime and applied it. Guys just put the work in. We got unlucky at the end, but that’s soccer. It happens.”
The game was scoreless for much of the first half until a frantic final three minutes. Haddonfield jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 2:13 left when a foul drawn by Alemi inside West Deptford’s box led to a converted penalty kick by Haddonfield senior forward Alex Johnston.
Rather than sulk about the situation, the Eagles came right back with the equalizer just 19 seconds later as Joe Mingrino threaded a pass to Hunter, who beat a pair of defenders and slid the ball in the back of the net.
“He was great,” Jakubowski said of Hunter. “He’s the type of guy that comes in and out, but when he is hot, he is hot. Tonight he was, and if he can keep it up we will be able to stay on a roll.”
The offensive fireworks didn’t stop there though, as Luke Pease scored with just 15 seconds left to give the Bulldawgs a 2-1 lead at the half.
“I think the biggest thing when you play Haddonfield is battling, dealing with adversity and fighting back,” Jakubowski said. “We did that, bouncing back 19 seconds (after the penalty kick) with a goal, but then we couldn’t put them a way. When you don’t do that against a good team like Haddonfield, they will capitalize.”
Loud roars could be heard coming out of the West Deptford halftime huddle as the players were clearly motivated to earn a split against Haddonfield, who won the September meeting 2-1.
“We were talking about how it isn’t over until the final whistle,” Hunter said. “It was about giving everything you got, all 100 percent. We just kept saying that.”
The Eagles will have to keep that mindset going forward. With the win Haddonfield improved to 10-0-1 and stayed on the fast track to defending its division title. West Deptford (7-3) still has plenty to play for this season, and plans to get back on track in its next game on Thursday.
Asked on how the team will be able to respond after such a difficult loss, Hunter made it sound simple.
“We just have to take it out on Collingswood Thursday,” he said.