Mitchell Naber works the ball down the field for Beckman.

A dubious handball call gave the North Fayette Valley soccer team a 2-1 advantage in their substate final game with the Blazers May 26. When the Tiger Hawks made that stand up, they were on their way to the Class 1A State Tournament and the Blazers, who had been favored to win the game, were left wondering.

The call was dubious because, in the words of coach Mirek Laskowski, “The ball hit our player on the shoulder and no way was it a handball. But what the referees call, they call.”

The Tiger Hawks had gained a one-goal advantage with a quick score in the 34th minute by Sam Nefzger. He sent a close ball in the right side of the net for the 1-0 lead. Fourteen minutes later, the Blazers tied the game when Logan Burchard converted a penalty kick of their own, into the low left side of the net. The deciding goal came from Jonah Moore who slipped it by a diving Hunter Douglas.

But that all happened in the first half and, as Laskowski said, “We had a bunch of chances to tie again or to win it. The ball just didn’t go our way.” The Blazers had 17 shots on goal in the second half alone, including a series of three right in a row from Lane Kramer who bombarded the keeper and saw his shot ricochet out. He hit the bar and the crossbar on the ensuing attempts, all in the space of about 10 seconds. “That and Trent had a clear shot with about 20-30 seconds left in the game that just missed. We hit the crossbar so many times or the sidebars, it was like the ball was cursed. Any other time, those shots would have curled in.”

With shots on goal were Conner Grover and Kramer four, Burchard three, Eli Dunkel two, Mitchell Naber, Arens, and Bryce Boekholder one. Douglas had three saves.

“Losing the last game isn’t what we planned,” added Laskowski. “We controlled the game so well and really should have won it. Trailing 2-1 at half isn’t that hard to overcome. There were 40 minutes left to change that. Even with 20 minutes left or 10, it’s still more than able to be done. When it got down to five minutes the time was slipping by too fast. We just couldn’t finish the way we needed or wanted.

“But it doesn’t take away from the season we had, going 16-4 and taking the WaMaC. We just have to start over from here, begin our work for next year now. We only lose four or five seniors, three of them starters. We carry over 12 juniors to begin next year with major experience. It all comes down to how hard they will work.”