Last second save gives Sardis soccer squad Eastern Valley championship

The Falcons beat the Abbotsford Panthers last week in a AAA senior boy’s showdown.

Sardis secondary keeper Carter Rodrigue packed a bundle of emotions into three crazy minutes of soccer Thursday afternoon, leading his team to a historic win over Abbotsford secondary.

The Falcons captured the first ever Eastern Valley Athletic Association senior boys soccer title with a 2-1 home field win in a game that featured one of the most dramatic finishes you’ll ever see on a soccer pitch.

The scene.

Sardis led 2-1 in the final minute when the Panthers put a ball into the 18 yard box. Rodrigue charged out as an Abby player charged in.

“I saw it coming in and I yelled ‘Keep!’ three times,” the keeper recalled. “Ben (Harris), my left back, he backed off because he knows how hard I come out.

“I slid in and the Abby player tripped over my feet as I grabbed the ball.”

Rodrigue couldn’t believe it when the game official signaled a foul, ruling that while the goalie touched the ball first, the challenge that left the Panther player lying flat on the pitch was unsafe.

Rodrigue was incensed.

Sardis coach Sean Calver was livid.

“I just think at that point in the game, with no time left on the clock, it’s a tough call to make and you need to be 100 per cent sure it is a penalty,” Calver said. “It didn’t look like one.”

Rodrigue had to be restrained by teammates, who worked hard to keep him away from the referee.

Had he gotten to the man, fired up as he was, Rodrigue thinks this story may have ended much differently than it did.

“I did get suspended in a league game for going after a ref and pushing him,” Rodrigue admitted sheepishly. “I have a really bad temper, so I’m glad they held me back.”

As it was, he had to get back in the net, settle down and face the most important penalty kick of his young career.

“Deep breaths,” he said with a laugh. “I’m Catholic too, so I closed my eyes and said a little prayer to God.”

Abby’s shooter stared in at him, and just before stepping into his shot, he glanced to his left. That’s when Rodrigue says he knew that the kick was going right, and his guess was spot on.

As the shot slammed into his gut and he held on for dear life, his teammates erupted in cheers.

The referee blew his whistle.

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

Champions.

“All season long, Carter has stepped up in big moments and he’s stopped multiple penalty shots,” Calver said. “I knew he had a chance and he came through.”

It figured that one way or another this game was going to come down to the final whistle. Twice the Falcons and Panthers met during the regular season.

Abbotsford won the first 1-0.

Sardis took the second 3-0.

It looked like the Falcons were heading for a rout early in the rubber match when they took a two goal lead 21 minutes in.

Hudson Bergen opened the scoring, tapping in a cross from Sam Corke at the far post, and Kole Nelles hammered in a free kick to double the lead.

But the Falcons knew it wasn’t going to be that easy, and Abbotsford pushed back big time. The Panthers owned possession the last 15 minutes of the first half and much of the second.

But the Falcons weathered the storm and now it’s off to provincials.

Both teams will be at Burnaby Lake Nov. 21-23 as the Eastern Valley entries, but Sardis will be a higher seed when the 16 team tournament starts. Calver believes half the field is good enough to win it all, and his Falcons are one of the teams with a shot.

“In league play we only lost the one game to Abbotsford, and we have a good mix of Grade 10, 11 and 12 starters,” Calver said. “Defensively, I think we’re pretty solid. Even though they (Abbotsford) came at us today, we limited the damage.

“It’d be nice to be top five at provincials, and I believe we have a chance to win it all.”

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