September 10, 2009 at 9:03 a.m.
When the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled and Elvis had left the building, the result of the game was still the same: North Branch 3, Chisago Lakes 2. For the first time ever, the Vikings had beaten the Wildcats in a boys' soccer game. And in overtime, no less.
The game was played last Thursday, September 3 on the Wildcats' home field at Chisago Lakes High School.
The game started off with a yellow card being assessed against the Wildcats for an equipment violation and ended with a controversial disallowance of a Wildcat penalty kick. In between, the Vikings' Brian Grand scored with less than two seconds left in regulation on a brilliant individual effort that sent the game into overtime. The referee assessed five yellow cards and two red cards, both against the Wildcats, in the game.
Wildcat David Rau scored the only goal of the first half. The Vikings were called for a handball that appeared to be in the box, but the referee moved it just outside the box. Rau curled the free kick into the upper corner of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
The Vikings tied it with eight minutes gone in the second half. The Wildcats were called for a handball in their box, and Grand rolled the penalty kick just inside the right post to make the score 1-1.
With fifteen minutes gone in the half, Wildcat Dominic Novak launched a free kick into the Viking box from the left side. Ben Stanghelle tipped the ball toward the right corner of the net. Viking goalkeeper Austin Holmes dove toward his left, got a few fingers on it and deflected the ball just wide of the net for a brilliant save that kept the game tied 1-1. But just over a minute later, Rau lofted a kick from the right corner into the Viking box. Novak knocked the ball up and over Holmes and into the net to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
The Vikings nearly tied it up with 15 minutes left in the game. Grand slid a nice through ball toward the right side of the Wildcat box. Viking Tony Ceroll and Wildcat goalkeeper Kyle Buchanan both raced toward the ball. Ceroll barely won the race, but only had time to kick the ball directly into Buchanan, who was nearly on top of him. The ball bounced over the goal line to the right for a corner kick, keeping the Wildcats up by a goal.
The Wildcats remained ahead and looked like they would come away with a 2-1 win. With less than a minute left in the game, they controlled the ball and moved it deep into the Viking zone. Rau moved the ball to the right corner and held it there with two Vikings on his back. With thirty seconds remaining, the referee called a foul on Rau from 40 yards away. The Vikings quickly took a free kick, which went off the Wildcats and out of bounds. With less than 20 seconds left in the game, the Vikings took a throw-in deep in their own zone. Grand took the ball and began his quick, amazing journey down the center of the field. He weaved his way through the Wildcat midfield, outraced the defense and, from the top of the box, shot the ball into the right corner of the net with 1.7 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 2-2 and send it into overtime.
Three minutes into the first of two five minute overtimes, Viking Trent Klatt had the ball down near the Wildcat goal line. He crossed the ball back to teammate Tyler Ertl, who passed the ball to ahead to a wide open Ceroll near the upper right corner of the Wildcat box. Ceroll moved toward the net and shot from about ten yards away. Buchanan dove to his left and got a hand on it, but didn't deflect it wide enough as the ball sailed just inside the right post to put the Vikings up 3-2. Wildcat Manny Cruceru was ejected after the play, leaving the Wildcats one player short for the remainder of the game.
With the score still 3-2 in favor of the Vikings, Wildcat Chris Thompson received a second yellow card and was ejected. But since it was a second yellow card and not a red card, the Wildcats did not have to go down one more player.
Late in overtime, it looked like the Vikings were going to hold on for a 3-2 win as the Wildcats furiously tried to score. Wildcat Cameron Bouwens got the ball in the center of the Viking box about 14 yards out with less than five seconds left and started to take the last shot of the game. One of the Vikings knocked Bouwens over and the Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick.
Novak lined up to take the penalty kick. He shot the ball wide left, and the Vikings began to celebrate. But the assistant referee called Viking goalkeeper Holmes for moving forward off the line before Novak touched the ball and the center referee ordered the kick to be retaken. Bouwens lined up for the re-kick and scored easily, apparently tying the game. But Viking head coach Graeme Jury ran over to the assistant referee and told her that a different player had taken the penalty kick than the one who took the original kick. The assistant referee got the center referee's attention just before he restarted the ball at center. The referees spent about 15 minutes talking to each other and, depending on who you talk to, one or both benches. They finally decided that Bouwens' goal was illegal since Novak, the original shooter, should have done the re-kick, as well. They awarded the Vikings an indirect free kick from the penalty spot. The Vikings kicked the ball, the horn sounded and the Vikings celebrated their first win ever over the Wildcats as a dejected, angry group of Wildcats left the field.
"With about four minutes left in regulation," said Jury, "Brian Grand told my assistant coach Doug Larson that he needed to come out of the game because he had nothing left. I told Doug that Brian's 'nothing left' is better than anything else I've got. We left him in and it proved to be a good decision. Even when he's that tired, he's still going to do things that amaze you. He's a game-changing player."
"The Wildcats played a very good game and dominated the possession of the ball. Our players just wouldn't die. David Rau, the Wildcat from Germany, is a very nice player. This game will go down in history as one of the toughest games North Branch has ever played and it was fantastic to walk out of the Wildcat stadium with a win."
"North Branch is obviously a very much improved team," said Wildcat head coach Mark Leigh, "and Brian Grand is an incredible player. Still, it was a very disheartening loss. There were some odd calls during the game. Starting the game off by calling a violation for improper positioning of shin guards by four of my players is strange. Calling the player holding the ball with 30 seconds left in the game for obstruction or whatever they called is something I've never seen before. And disallowing the penalty kick goal at the end because we switched shooters is not the correct call, in my opinion. We thought about protesting the game, but even if the protest is upheld the Minnesota State High School League will not change the result on the field. Congratulations to the Vikings."