Victory came suddenly for the Cumberland Valley Christian Blazers Thursday in the semifinals of the Mason-Dixon Christian Conference boys soccer playoffs.
The Blazers scored 47 seconds into sudden-death overtime to defeat Shalom Christian 2-1 and reach the MDCC title game.
The second-seeded Blazers (13-6-1) overcame harsh conditions and a gritty Shalom performance to earn a date with top-seeded Calvary Christian Saturday at 7 p.m. at Greencastle-Antrim High School in the championship game.
“We were shaky at best,” Blazers coach Stan Hott said. “We had issues with our first touch and with our passing. It came down to that final kick.”
That final kick came from junior Caleb Eckert right after the start of the sudden-death overtime period. Eckert sailed a free kick from just across the midfield line over the outstretched hand of the Shalom goalkeeper and into the back of the net to send the Blazers to the title game for the second consecutive year.
“Caleb had a beautiful shot from just over the half-field that tucked right under the bar and gave us the win,” Hott said.
The Blazers took a 1-0 lead early in the first half when Mario Wiesman directed in a pass from Isaac Kauffeldt. Shalom tied it late in the first half, and that’s the way it stayed through a scoreless second half.
“The player of the game was Max Crawford,” Hott said. “He knew he was having an off night and asked to have Mario start the overtime instead of himself. That sacrifice of self is what we try to instill in all of our players.”
Goalkeeper Jack Gabler made 17 saves for the Blazers, who held a 6-3 margin in corner kicks.
The Blazers played Calvary twice during the regular season, tying 1-1 at home in their first game of the year (that game was later awarded to Calvary as a forfeit victory because the overtime period was not played) and then dropping a 3-1 decision at Calvary a few weeks later. Calvary defeated the Blazers 4-1 in last year’s title game.