First and foremost

Great Crossing boys' soccer players celebrate with the 41st District championship trophy -- the first for any team in the school's inaugural year -- after winning a 4-3 overtime classic over Frankfort.

FRANKFORT - History made, in a fashion members of the Great Crossing boys’ soccer team are unlikely to forget as long as they live.

Tournament most valuable player Landon “Trey” Dice, playing with a dislocated left shoulder suffered earlier in the game, deposited the final tie-breaking penalty kick for the golden goal late Thursday night at Sower Soccer Complex.

It gave GC a 4-3 victory over Frankfort and the 41st District championship, the first team title in the new high school’s extremely brief history.

"He (coach Nick Maxwell) asked me if I could step up and do it, and I said of course," Dice said.

More than once, actually. Maxwell wasn't convinced after the first reply, but with another of his strongest feet, Jacob Coats, missing due to a red card and game disqualification, the coach showed faith in a wounded Dice.

How much belief? He scribbled Dice's name last in a five-man order that included Rodolfo Flores, Ty Martin, Thomas Disney and Keagan Morrin,

"He buried it for the win, and that finished us off," Maxwell said. "Some guys stepped up, and we move forward.

Dice’s boot provided the final plot twist in an emotional, contentious game, one steeped in come-from-behind drama for the Warhawks (12-2-3).

All three Great Crossing goals in regulation erased a lead for upset-minded Frankfort (11-9).

"Each time they came back back and challenged. They really showed their grit and determination. They knew they could win," Maxwell said. "Even when we went down in the first half, we were still the better team."

Zach Shelton was the unlikely savior with 37.1 seconds remaining in regulation.

A defensive stalwart who hadn’t scored a goal or registered an assist all season, he crashed toward the goal in a frantic, finishing flurry and tipped in a service from Bradyn Johnson by way of C.J. Wittry.

"I was so scared," Shelton said. "It dropped right in front of me. I got a small touch on it and hit it back again before it hit the ground. I don't even remember what happened. I just know it went in, bottom left corner."

"A lot of teams, 3-2 with a minute left, they're done," Maxwell added. "We sent Shelton up to striker just to give us an extra body, some height and aggressiveness, and that ball just happened to come perfectly for him."

GC then dominated possession in each of two five-minute, sudden-death overtimes but couldn’t break through.

That left the title squarely on the shoulders of the two goalkeepers, Isaac Sullivan of Great Crossing and Sam Yocum of Frankfort, in a round of five penalty kicks for each team.

The Warhawks and Panthers both started 3-for-4 before Sullivan denied Ty Hancock, leaving the game on Dice’s foot.

Dice, who went to the hospital for further medical attention after the awards ceremony, beat Yocum with a rip to the lower right hand corner of the cage, touching off a wild celebration.

"Their crowd kept them in the game, energized them," Dice said. "We kind of fed off that. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, but we found a way to get the W."

Great Crossing played the final 55 minutes of regulation plus overtime without Coats, its reliable boss in the midfield. 

By rule, the Warhawks also had to soldier through the remainder of the game with 10 players to Frankfort’s 11. Maxwell credited Martin and Wittry for yeoman work in picking up the slack.

"That didn't stop us," Shelton said. "We played even harder after that."

Through the loss of Coats, the injury to Dice, and essentially playing in a road game despite being the No. 1 seed, Great Crossing wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Ethan Vermilion’s goal stood up for a 1-0 Frankfort lead at the half. It snapped a GC shutout streak of more than 475 minutes, encompassing all or part of seven games.

Morrin supplied the equalizer three minutes after intermission.

Three goals in a two-minute span put FHS back in command. Nathan Neal vaulted the Panthers in front with 22 minutes remaining in regulation, and the deadlock from Ty Martin’s response was short-lived thanks to a penalty kick from Reed Miklavcic.

"That thing was a rocket," Maxwell said of Martin's goal. "Even though Ty wasn't officially on the all-tournament team, he deserved it. We could have picked many of our guys, not just tonight but all season."

Shelton, Morrin and Sullivan joined Dice with all-tournament honors. 

"I think it shows that everyone can step up, play their part and contribute, make this team amazing," Shelton said. "We have a lot of potential."

GC will try to add more hardware to its magical season in the 11th Region tournament.

The Warhawks will host a quarterfinal Monday or Tuesday as one of the four No. 1 seeds. Semifinal and championship rounds are back at Sower.

"We're versatile," Dice said of the team's winning formula. "We can score in many ways. We've just got to get ourselves there."

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