When the South Effingham Mustangs and the Effingham County Rebels soccer teams met just 72 hours before, there wasn’t much difference between them.
Saturday afternoon, that difference was even smaller.
But just like the first encounter between the two teams, the Mustangs prevailed again, this time winning on penalty kicks to sweep the season series with a 3-2 victory.
“Effingham County played a tough match (Friday) night, and they had every reason to not play hard,” South Effingham coach Paul Richards said. “And they played their hearts out. I admire them for their effort.”
The loss came less than 24 hours after the Rebels fell in penalty kicks to Ware County, and the Rebels bench was thin coming into Saturday’s game. It was also their season finale.
“They played great today,” Effingham coach Mike Baczynski said. “They knew this was their last game of the season, and they weren’t going to come out and do everything but their best. It was a tough loss and an emotional game.”
The Rebels were eliminated from playoff contention by the loss to Ware, and Baczynski informed the team after Saturday’s game he will not be back next year. He is moving to Florida.
James McGahee buried a shot past Effingham keeper Hunter McGilvray for the fourth and final goal in the penalty kicks round for the Mustangs. The Rebels, having missed two of their three chances, didn’t get a chance at a fourth shot in the five-man shootout.
South Effingham rallied in the second half to force overtime, using the advantage of their deeper roster and the hot afternoon to wear down the Rebels in the final 40 minutes.
“But they played some of their best in the second overtime,” Baczynski said of his team. “I thought we were going to get one there.”
Dmitri Hill put the Rebels (1-10-1) in front with a strike less than 10 minutes into the game. He chased down a long punt from McGilvray and broke in 1-on-1 on Mustangs keeper Ian Anderson, beating him to the right side for a goal.
The Mustangs tied it with less than 20 minutes to go in the half. They were awarded a direct kick after the Rebels were called for a handball 35 yards from their own goal. Andrew Kennedy’s shot short-hopped McGilvray, and the ball skipped over the keeper’s arm and into the net.
Hill created another scoring chance late in the first half. He pulled Anderson off his line and had an open net to shoot out, but was hit in the back by Mustangs defender Jere Landis. Hill drilled the ensuing penalty shot past Anderson for a 2-1 lead.
“It makes a big difference when he is out there and Jonathan (Slater) is out there making runs,” Baczynski said, adding Hill had been slowed by an injury. “That’s one thing we’ve got — a ton of speed. That’s how we got chances in the second overtime.”
The Mustangs peppered McGilvray with shots in the second half, and the Rebels keeper caught a break when Luis Vasquez beat him on an attempt but his shot smacked off the bottom of the post with 12:40 remaining.
A minute later, McGahee broke in, and with a Rebels defender on his shoulder, muscled a goal to tie the game 2-2.
Richards had been harping on how to attack the goal to McGahee, and his words appeared to have sunk in.
“We have a couple of players with the talent to play the position,” the Mustangs coach said. “But not the attitude of ‘I will not be denied.’ That’s a big part of it, and that’s a big part of the growing process.”
In the second of the two 5-minute overtime periods, Anderson was forced to make a save on Slater to preserve the tie and had to turn away Nik Figura after the Rebels attacker sped through the Mustangs defense.
The Mustangs (5-6) survived the threats, and Anderson started the shootout with a goal, followed by tallies from Jimmy Fletcher and Marshall Butler. Zack Monteleone had the lone shootout goal for the Rebels.
“I thought we would come out with more intensity and roll them early,” Richards said. “I wanted us to come out understanding that hard playing wins games. We learned today you can’t underestimate anybody.
“I looked at their bench and I looked at mine, and I couldn’t tell you who the more tired team was.”