MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Half Hollow Hills West goalkeeper Ben Nacht wanted to be the player that led his team to victory on Saturday.
He got a little help from the crossbar, but there was little doubt that Nacht was the man of the match for the Colts in their state Class AA boys soccer semifinal against Clifton Park Shenendehowa.
The junior keeper made 12 saves as both teams played to a 1-1 tie after 110 minutes. Nacht also made a huge stop on the first Shen penalty kick as the Colts advanced on PKs, 3-2, at Middletown High School.
Hills West (17-3-2) meets Rochester McQuaid Jesuit in Sunday’s AA final at 12:30 p.m. at Middletown High School.
Leo Musacchia, Casey Brugna and Issah Khanat scored the penalty kicks as the Colts led 3-2 after four rounds. Kokkinides Nickolas stepped to the mark for Shenendehowa (15-3-2). If Nickolas missed, or Nacht was able to make the save, the Colts would advance.
“I wanted to be the hero,” Nacht said.
Nacht dove, expecting a low shot. Nickolas went high but the ball smashed off the crossbar and bounced straight down.
“I saw the ball in front of me,” said a smiling Nacht. “I said, ‘No way he hit the crossbar.”
But that’s exactly what happened. It was a perfect cap to a thrilling, wild, sometimes frustrating game for the Colts, who found themselves trailing in the second half.
Jaylin Sykes gave Shenendehowa a 1-0 lead in the 55th minute. But Colts junior Marcus Fraser picked the perfect time to find his first goal of the playoffs, scoring the equalizer in the 58th minute.
“Marcus had been so frustrated he hadn’t scored,” Colts coach Doug Gannon said. “But all he did was score one of the biggest goals in Hills West soccer history.”
The jubilation was short-lived. The Colts’ Nicholas Duchatellier was issued a red card in the 60th minute after he was the last man back and took down a Shen player on a breakaway. Nacht said after the game that he thought he had secured the ball before the takedown occurred.
Hills West was forced to play a man down the rest of the game, including both 15-minute golden goal overtimes. Gannon had one thought the rest of the game: penalty kicks.
“Without a doubt,” Gannon said. “But we kept pushing, and kept going forward.”
As did Shenendehowa, which started wearing down the Colts late. But Hills West’s Luke Bloom made a terrific clear over the Colts net with under 20 seconds left in regulation to keep the score tied.
Hills West later watched as Shenendehowa also struck the crossbar with less than five seconds remaining in the second overtime. It was one of the few stops Nacht didn’t make on Saturday. But the Colts stayed alive to see one more game.
“He was the star of the show,” said Gannon of Nacht. “He kept it 1-1. I thought it could have been 3-0 Shen, but the way Ben plays, he makes spectacular saves. He steals games, and I think he stole one for us today.”