By Gary R. Rasberry
FINDLAY -- For the seventh straight match, the Celina boys soccer team held a team scoreless for 80 minutes.
The problem was, Bowling Green kept the Bulldogs scoreless as well.
Two 15-minute overtimes still couldn't decide the Division I sectional opener, and a best-of-five penalty kick round was even as well.
It took a miss in the second round of the sudden death penalty kick session by the Bobcats and a freshman on the line with the match on the line to make the difference for the Bulldogs.
Aaron Schmitt put the ball past BG keeper Nick Palmer to wrap up the win for Celina by a margin of 6-5 on penalty kicks to advance to the next round of the sectional at Graham Memorial Soccer Stadium in Findlay. The Bulldogs (13-2-2) face the host Trojans on Thursday at 5 p.m. for the chance to play in the district semifinals next week. The Bobcats end their season at 9-8-0.
The 110-plus minutes of action -- the 80 minutes of regulation and the 30 of overtime -- saw the Bulldogs have plenty of opportunities to win in regulation. The defense of Palmer in net and shots that were a little wide or high had Celina players and fans frustrated.
Not to mention their coach.
"You hate to win a game like this, you hate to lose a game like this," said Celina coach Bruce Strine. "We just had opportunity after opportunity, and we didn't finish. ... You control a team that much on the field and not win it (in regulation), that's not good."
The tale of the tape, so to speak, went all Celina's way. The Bulldogs had 24 shots on goal -- 17 in regulation -- and eight of its 12 corner kicks in the first 80 minutes.
Palmer came up with some big saves and got some lucky breaks as some shots went high, wide and occasionally hit the crossbar at the net and bounced over.
"(Palmer) made a heckuva save on one shot by (Eric) Braun. He came out of nowhere. I didn't see him," said Strine. "All night, we just missed our shots, missed our opportunities. We can't do that when you're down to just one game. It was frustrating. We'll do some work tomorrow on our finishing."
Bowling Green picked up its game in the second half and tried to attack the net more, but the Celina defense got big knockaways from Dave Skoczyn, Adam Hoyng, Andy Sell and Eric Loughridge along the way. BG had just six shots on goal in regulation and eight total, none in the second overtime. Celina keeper Matt Leugers had just six saves in the match.
"Defense, again, just a fantastic job," said Strine. "They didn't get many looks at the goal -- they got a couple, but not many."
"This is our (seventh) shutout in a row, plus overtime. We're over 600 (minutes of shutout play) right now. That's a heckuva defense."
Going into the shootout, Celina lined up its aces as it took the first shot. Eric Braun stepped up first and put it to the left of Palmer for the first goal. Facaundo Bouzat evened things up with a shot to the right of Leugers. Brian Dorsten followed up with a shot to the right corner of the net and Leugers made a save on the BG second try by Nate Cheadle, then took the gloves off to try a penalty kick on Palmer and Leugers kicked it left past the diving keeper to make it 3-1.
Jonathan Moody cut it to 3-2 with a shot that hit the top of the goal and bounced it and Skoczyn stepped up with the chance to make it 4-2, but Palmer was right on the spot and blocked the shot. allowing Anton Vizliano the chance to tie things up. Vizliano's shot went to the right corner and put Matt Stetler on the hot seat in trying to get a fourth goal.
Stetler's shot went to the left of Palmer and put the pressure on the Bobcats' fifth shooter Ben Reinke. Reinke stepped up and went top shelf on Leugers to force a sudden death.
In the second round of penalty kicks, five different shooters tried for the goal. If the first team missed and the other team scored, or if the first team scored and the second missed, the match would be over.
The Bobcats went first and sent Alex Moore to the line. Moore followed Reinke's move and went top shelf on Leugers to get the 1-0 lead. Sell stepped up and went upper left on Palmer squaring the match at 1-1.
Andrew Bair came up and booted the ball left. This time, though, the ball went wide and out of bounds, allowing Celina to shoot for the win with Schmitt on the line.
Schmitt also went to the left, but the ball went into the back of the net, giving Celina an emotional-draining win.
"I don't like to put that kind of pressure on a freshman, but he came through," said Strine with a grin. "He's got nerves of steel. It's amazing. He stays calm in every situation all season. I'm happy for him and happy for the team."
Now the Bulldogs play Findlay for the second time on the season. The Trojans gave Celina one of its two losses this season, winning 4-0 at Graham Stadium in August.
"Hopefully we show better than we did earlier in the season," said Strine.