Just after 9:20 Friday night, a soccer ball sailed off the right foot of Patrick Miller and ruffled the left side of the net, setting off a frenzied celebration for the Sickles High boys soccer team.
The goal put an exclamation point to 80 minutes of regulation, two 10-minute overtimes, seven penalty kicks and a 3-2 win, all hard-fought against the Gryphons' biggest rival, Gaither.
"I hate penalty kicks and especially hate them tonight," Sickles coach Tony Calvo said. "It was a great, great soccer match and it's a shame that somebody had to lose that way, let alone lose at all."
At the end of regulation, the score was tied at 2 with neither team gaining any real advantage.
Gaither (15-4-1) scored first in the 23rd minute when Ryan Foerstner chipped in a ball that had banged off several legs around the box. Sickles, however, answered two minutes later when Boris Simeunovic nailed home a penalty kick after Gaither was called for a rough tackle in the box.
The teams made a similar bang-bang scoring switch in the 70th and 72nd minutes. Sickles (21-1-3) scored first when forward Matt Brown ran free on a breakaway and drilled a ball in the net's right side. Two minutes later Gaither answered when Foerstner scored again, this time on a breakaway of his own.
In the penalty kicks, Sickles went first and proceeded to zip four consecutive shots for goals.
Gaither scored only on its first attempt. On the Cowboys' second shot, Sickles keeper Brandon Stout guessed correctly, diving right and blocking the ball with his body. Gaither's third attempt ricocheted off the crossbar, leaving Sickles' Miller with his final shot to seal the deal.
"I certainly can't fault the effort of either team tonight," Gaither coach Eric Sims said. "Both teams left everything on the field. Hopefully we'll both win in the next round (of regional) and play again (in the regional semifinals, which could happen with the way the regional brackets fall).