BA wins first playoff game with last gasp shot
Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 13, 2023
BROOKHAVEN — In the dying minutes of overtime, Cooper Strickland put his laces through the ball and found the back of the net and the winning goal for Brookhaven Academy. It took nearly two ten minute halves of overtime to determine a winner between BA and St. Aloysius Monday night.
The 2-1 win secured the first playoff victory in BA soccer program history for either boys or girls soccer. It also punched a ticket to the next round where the Cougars will play St. Joe Madison in Madison. Head Coach Alex Brown raced down the touchline to celebrate the winning goal and final whistle.
“It is obviously a massive win for the program. The boys have been playing outstanding lately and their fight and resilience really showed tonight,” Brown said. “I can’t say enough good words about my boys. They played their hearts out and they earned this victory tonight.”
St. Aloysius players collapsed to the field with disbelief and tears after a final attempt to score an equalizer was cleared.
BA’s bench exploded onto the field in celebration at the final whistle. Strickland was smiling ear to ear as he walked off the pitch. The play which led to his goal had happened in slow motion before he was mobbed by teammates in celebration.
“I have never been so excited to score a goal before. I missed a chance in the first overtime half, it hit off the post. This one, I took a bad touch at first but I knew it was win or likely go to PKs,” Strickland said. “It was the second time (Tyler) Shann has assisted me this year. As soon as Shann sent it over the kid’s head I waited so I would be sure and it did so I started to chase and I knew I had to score now. It was the same shot at Copiah. It was across the goal and worked out.”
St. Aloysius lost to BA earlier in the year in a 3-2 defeat. Both games were closely fought and the Flashes had created opportunities but ultimately Brookhaven Academy found the goals they needed.
Dalton Windam scored the Flashes only goal in the second half on a low shot. It helped set up a stressful final 25 minutes. BA and St. Al started to boot balls up field and much of the game was back and forth until the end of regulation.
St. Al had a goal in the first half disallowed for a handball by an attacking Flashes player. BA came close to scoring a second goal in the first half but were unable to finish off any chances.
Yojan Hernandez opened the scoring for Brookhaven Academy with 15 minutes left to go in the first half. He rifled a shot from a tight angle which slipped off the hands of the goalkeeper and found the upper left corner. It was a beautiful goal.
Hernandez and his cousin Enrique Hernandez did a lot of the leg work in terms of dribbling, distribution of the ball and drawing fouls for free kicks. Yojan limped around the field but pushed through. Strickland said the further the game went along the less tired they became.
“After the first two halves our adrenaline kicks in. It is like you are floating,” Strickland said. “It is like you are running track, you don’t really feel your legs.”
BA continues to play really good soccer as they advance in the playoffs. Goalkeeper Jaden Lea tried his best to keep a clean sheet but was unable to do so for the second game in a row. Lea has been a solid rock in goal all season.
Madison St. Joe mercy ruled Oak Forest Academy 8-0 to move on to the semi-final round of the MAIS boys playoffs and will host Brookhaven Academy Thursday.
“We played them earlier in the season and were tied at the end of regulation. Hopefully we can play the same and win this time,” Strickland said. “They are a respectable squad. Hopefully we can continue to play together. These last few games, we don’t care who scores. There is more trust compared to early in the season. We don’t have a choice but to trust our defense and we can trust our goalkeeper. Jaden is the best goalkeeper in our region.”