It was the rubber match they wanted: Proctor, a foe that played their style of fast, physical soccer, and beat them to the No. 1 seed during the last week of the season. It was the toughest 80 minutes of battle the Wildcats would face this season, each team trading comebacks until Proctor’s John Connell came through with the game winner five minutes into overtime.
It was a cold day, and Proctor started the game with the wind at their backs, a clear advantage as they struck quickly, mounting a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes. Proctor controlled the flow of the game in the first half, producing a great passing game, stopping any of Twin Valley’s attempts to advance into their defensive third, while their midfielders pumped loose balls back to their offense. Wildcat goalie Sam Molner was kept busy as Proctor outshot Twin Valley 9-1 in the first 40 minutes. Twin Valley was in trouble.
With all the momentum and Twin Valley in a corner, Proctor’s control of the game began to slip when the teams traded sides. Twin Valley began to attack from both sides, while Colin Lozito and Dal Nesbitt created shot opportunities in the middle, as well as rebound attempts. Badgering Proctor’s defense started to work, and seven minutes into the second half, Nick Nilsen got the Wildcats’ first goal on a rebound past goalie Reid Farley. Nine minutes later, Hunter Therrien, playing in his last game as a Wildcat, got a pass from Lozito, and tied the game with a shot from the right side.
Nilsen would get another rebound goal on the left side three minutes later putting the Wildcats up 3-2 with just over 20 minutes to go. Twin Valley continued to control the game, with opportunity upon opportunity to increase their lead, but their attack came up a second late each time the ball was in front of the net. Proctor, realizing their No.1 seed, and season, were seven minutes from going down the drain, found their second wind, and put the Wildcats’ defense on its heels.
After a series of passes where Twin Valley couldn’t mark up in time, and two close-call headers, John Connell found the net to save Proctor’s season, putting one in the upper left corner past Molner.
Twin Valley won the overtime coin toss and, with the wind at their backs, looked to win their first state championship since 2005. Proctor and Twin Valley traded offensive opportunities, but it wasn’t to be for the Wildcats.
John Connell scored his third goal of the day to win Proctor the state championship, five minutes into overtime.
“Eighty-five minutes is a long time,” said Hayford. “We hammered away but just couldn’t find it. They (Proctor) wouldn’t roll over, and they battled to the bitter end.” Hayford also says his team, which loses only three seniors, will remember and learn from this game.
“We’ll be back, that’s the first thing I told them after the game. This is a really unique group of close guys, and we didn’t have all of our players healthy until seven or eight games in. But they had each other’s back, and became a tight squad. (They’re) just a great group of young men and a team without issues, and all 20 guys made contributions, because their number-one goal at the beginning of the year was to win a state championship, and they did all they could and we came up six minutes short. When you put it all in perspective and you look back on your season and you realize all that you have accomplished you realize that not all is lost, it was a great run. And now they’ve tasted it, felt that atmosphere, and knowing them as well as I do, they’ll work extremely hard to get back to that game.”