Saving a penalty kick can be tough under the easiest of circumstances, but trying to save one that could potentially end your season and send you team home packing, well, that’s about as difficult as it can get for a keeper.
A 0-0 scoreline following two overtime periods forced a penalty shootout in Wednesday afternoon’s 4A playoff matchup between Stansbury and Ogden. Stansbury’s Devun Collins faced Ogden’s fifth penalty shot after his team went 2 for 5 in its first five shots.
If conceded, the penalty shot would end the game and Stansbury’s season along with it.
“I just tried to calm my mind and focus on his hips so I could get a look at where he was trying to shoot,” Collins said.
The shot was taken, Collins dove to his left and the Stansbury supporters erupted.
“I guessed right and I saved it,” Collins said after the game with a big smile.
The clutch save forced a sixth penalty try for both teams, which both sides converted. On the seventh, Stansbury freshman Larry Ramirez stepped up to take it for the Stallions and found the back of the net. Ogden’s sailed over the crossbar, ending the shootout at 4-3 in favor of the Stallions, who punched their ticket into the 4A quarterfinal round.
Collins recorded two saves in the shootout, as did Ogden keeper Josh Whelan.
“It felt awesome. There’s nothing better than saving a penalty, especially when you do it in a shootout at the end of the game,” Collins said.
“He’s such a stud,” Stansbury head coach Jacob Jones said of his junior keeper.
Jones also mentioned that Collins had been frustrated with himself ever since Stansbury lost to Juan Diego in a shootout on March 15 in which Collins guessed wrong on each penalty shot.
“We’ve had a couple of practices where we did shootouts and he was guessing wrong and jumping all over the place,” Jones said. “He finally settled down and he was so excited after he came up to me and was like, ‘I finally settled down coach, I got it!’ He did a fantastic job. He touched four (shots), and that’s more than you can ask for in a shootout.”
The shootout was an appropriate ending to what was a pretty evenly matched contest for 100 minutes of play. Stansbury did seem like it was on the verge of a breakthrough much of the second half and overtime periods, but never could capitalize on the chances it had.
“It was scrappy and it wasn’t our prettiest game,” Jones said. “There were a lot of guys that had opportunities and didn’t put them in when they normally do, so the guys scrapped this one out.”
Even though it wasn’t their best finishing game, Jones praised the defensive showing his team delivered.
“The defensive effort and making sure Ogden didn’t have any clean chances was the biggest key,” Jones said. “(Ogden) had a couple chances that they could’ve put away, and, luckily, it didn’t roll their way.”
Ogden played hard and made an impressive effort considering it lost to Stansbury 5-0 earlier in the season, which Jones said was a much closer game than the scoreline indicated.
Wednesday’s game was the first for Stansbury in almost 19 days due to complications with COVID-19 within its program. The hiatus forced Stansbury to cancel a matchup with Ogden that would’ve taken place toward the end of the regular season.
Given the long break the team had, Jones said he was happy when he saw the draw, knowing that his group would be facing a fellow Region 10 team it was familiar with.
“It was a plus for us to have a familiar opponent in our first matchup. We were excited for this and it’s a great opportunity,” Jones said.
Collins said the fact his team was coming off what players felt like was a very long break makes the win that much sweeter.
“It feels really, really good. It just feels good to be able to come back onto the field and come back to a win,” he said.
If facing a familiar opponent is a plus, the Stallions once again find themselves in a good situation given that they will face another fellow Region 10 opponent in No. 1 seed Juan Diego in the quarterfinal round on May 12.
Stansbury wasn’t able to beat the Soaring Eagle during the regular season, but played it close the two times the teams shared the pitch. The aforementioned shootout loss was the result of the first game, while Juan Diego won the second game 1-0.
“We’re super excited,” Jones said of the quarterfinal matchup. “We saw the draw and we thought that first we’ve gotta get through Ogden, then we can dream of what else we can do because we’ve played them close every time we’ve gone to their field.”