Miserable, Glorious Night

I’ve sat through a lot of soccer games in all kinds of weather. I’ve endured blistering heat and glare from the sun and freezing temperatures with snow whipping across the field. So it means something when I say that tonight’s home play-off game was among the worst.

The temperature was in the upper-40s, Fahrenheit. A stiff wind of 15-20 miles per hour was blowing across the field and into our faces. And the rain kept coming in sheets and sheets and sheets that soaked us throughout the entire game. It was miserable.

But it was also glorious, because Elliot and his Roosevelt Rough Riders teammates won the school’s first play-off game in years:

Kent Roosevelt, 1 – Akron North, 0.

There was a moment, with about 20 minutes left to play in the game, when it seemed like we were going to die. The game was scoreless, and we dreaded the specter of overtime and a penalty kick shoot-out: for the anxiety and uncertainty of it all, and for the fact that it would keep us out in that miserable weather for even longer. The wind swirled across the field. The players were slipping and sliding everywhere. Then, Akron North put together a few passes, and they were suddenly right in front of our goal.

Our goal-keeper was off-balance, out of position. One of their forwards put a shot on frame, towards the right side of the goal, away from our goal-keeper. It looked like a long, slow, wet slide to our doom. And then, from out of nowhere, one of our center-defensive midfielders slid across the goal-line, blocking the shot. An Akron North player rebounded the shot with a quick volley to the left side of the goal. And again, seemingly from out of nowhere, our goal-keeper made it just far enough off the ground to block the shot back towards the top of the box. Another Akron North player gave it a try, managing to get a solid foot on the ball, but his shot hit the left post. And finally, their fourth consecutive shot was blocked by one of our back-line defenders, and the ball was cleared.

It was an unbelievable sequence of events. I yelled until I was hoarse.

Five minutes later, one of our forwards was taken down inside the box and awarded a penalty kick. He slotted his penalty kick, to provide the only score of the game. And then, it was just killing time until the end of the game and our suffering in the stands.

Elliot got to play the last six minutes of the game, and he made a few good plays to help kill time. On one particular play, he charged the goalie as he prepared to boot the ball deep downfield. Players at his position are supposed to do this, but it almost never amounts to anything. This time, however, there was a solid thud as he blocked the shot beautifully. In the two seconds of scrambling that immediately followed, it looked like Elliot might have a path to an open goal. Akron North’s defenders rallied, though, and they closed the gap — so Elliot just kicked a crossing shot from a long way out. A goal at that point in the game would have been amazing, but the twenty seconds of game-time that he milked were also valuable.

It was a proud moment to celebrate with the boys, following their victory. Elliot was elated. But we were also very glad to get out of the cold, wind, and rain. Hopefully, the weather will be better on Saturday, when they travel to Stow for their next play-off game.

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