KATHLEEN -- Things didn’t start off very well for Thomas County Central in its GHSA Class AAAA boys soccer game against Veterans.
Before the game, the Yellow Jackets lost starting goalie Chris Ojuro to a hand injury.
Little did the Yellow Jackets know that Austin McCloud, who is usually a midfielder, would have the game of his life in shutting down the Warhawks attack.
After a scoreless battle for all 80 minutes of regular play and 10 minutes of overtime, Thomas County Central made all five penalty kicks while Veterans could only hit four on Wednesday to allow the Yellow Jackets to advance to the second round of the state playoffs.
Veterans season ends at 13-6.
“What an amazing effort we got on the defensive side of the ball,“ Thomas County Central head coach Tony Voyles said. “In our region, we have been the ones who have been the aggressor, but after seeing them on tape, we knew that we needed to have more of a defensive mindset if we were going to win.
“Austin had a superhero kind of game in goal and the entire team followed our game plan to a T. We had an up and down type of year, but getting this win makes up for all of it.”
The first half was controlled by Veterans, and the Warhawks had several decent chances to score, with the best one being by Max Wilkins in the 21st minute, but McCloud turned it away and the teams headed into the half scoreless.
Thomas County Central was able hold on to the ball early in the second half, but never really had opportunities to score. Meanwhile, Veterans picked it up in the final 15 minutes of regulation. Dylan Blevins just missed in the 68th minute, and had at least two other quality chances to score, but they were denied by McCloud.
The best chance came in the 71st minute when Blevins shot was blocked by McCloud, but the ball bounced to Jared Hesketh, who had a shot from the corner of the net, only to just miss by hitting the outside part of the net.
The overtime periods were controlled by Veterans, but once again the Yellow Jackets’ defense, led by Daniel Holland and Sam Gelabert, was able to hold on and send the game to penalty kicks.
Veterans missed its second penalty kick, which was just enough for Thomas County Central, which was able to convert all five kicks for the win.
“I thought we played very well,” Veterans head coach Matt Roth said. “I thought we dominated at times and we certainly controlled most of the game, but they did a great job of keeping the ball out of the net.
“It’s very frustrating when you feel like you do everything right and still lose, but give Thomas County credit. They did what they had to do to win the game.”