N'western wins title in OT
nancy scholz/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Brandon Ettl (9) goes over a pair of Moravian Academy players to head the ball.
When Northwestern Lehigh senior forward Leigham Breckenridge received a ball in the opposition's side of the field, his initial thought may not have been to shoot.
But he's sure glad that he did.
Pitted in a tie game in the second overtime period of Wednesday night's Colonial League boys' soccer championship game, Breckenridge made sure penalty kicks weren't in the future. With 5:49 elapsed in double overtime, Breckendridge fired a goal from roughly 20 yards out into the net's right side, earning the Tigers a 2-1 victory over Moravian Academy and a league championship.
"I wasn't thinking shot," Breckenridge said. "I was thinking space. I saw space, and I took it. Then I saw the goal and took it again. It was definitely the best goal I ever had."
"I actually thought Leigham should've laid it off," head coach Nate Hunsicker said. "We had Ettl making a run through the center of the pitch. He had his eyes on the prize, and he knew what he was doing."
Last season, the Tigers came up a goal short in a 2-1 loss in the league semifinals against Southern Lehigh. Much was different this year, as the Tigers defeated the Spartans in this year's semifinals, 3-1, before their championship victory on Wednesday night.
"Honestly, my dream was to come to leagues and to beat Southern [Lehigh] again," Breckenridge said. "I just gave it my all. It's my senior year, and I want that number up on the wall."
Moravian's Ryan Brown tied it at a goal apiece late in the second half. With 4:01 to play in regulation, Brown cleaned up a loose ball around the Tigers' goal, connecting on a goal into the right corner of the net.
Following Brown's goal to tie the game, the Lions had a number of opportunities in the final four minutes of regulation, and throughout the first overtime session, to add a goal. Not even a minute after his goal, Brown had a bicycle kick in regulation from nearly 25 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar. Tiger freshman goalkeeper Kyle Bellhorn, who recorded 10 saves, then saved a Lion free kick with 20 seconds remaining.
In the first overtime period with roughly eight minutes remaining, a Lion goal was negated on a handball call in front of the goal.
"There were definitely very nervous moments for both sides," Hunsicker said. "Any given second, and the game is going to switch just like that."
"It was extremely nerve-wrecking, particularly the last five minutes of the half when Ryan [Brown] scored," Breckenridge said.
Both teams generated a number of shots on goal, with the Tigers holding a slight 15-14 advantage in that category.
It took over 68 minutes, however, before either team was able to get on the scoreboard.
After senior midfielder Brandon Ettl was taken down inside the 18-yard mark, senior forward Kyle Willis connected on the penalty kick with a goal in the right corner with 11:14 remaining in regulation.
The Tigers weren't able to hold that lead for long though.
"Honestly, we could've folded shop when they got that equalizer," Hunsicker said. "That's been the M.O. of our team all year though. When our backs are up against the wall, we fight back. I didn't waver for a minute. I knew that we still had a dog in the fight, and we were going to work hard."
Northwestern will get to enjoy this victory for a few days before getting ready for next week's District 11 tournament.
"Right now it's kind of surreal," Breckenridge said about the championship. "You never really think this is going to happen, but it did. This is what you work for the whole year. For it to finally come true, it's great."