Panthers edge out Cook in penalty kicks

Published 2:07 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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AMERICUS – It took more than the 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods to decide the outcome of the soccer match between Sumter County (SCHS) and Cook (CHS) Tuesday night. With the score tied at 2-2 at the end of the two extra overtime periods, it took a series of penalty kicks to decide the match winner and thanks to Jose Diaz’s made penalty kick, the Panthers earned a hard-fought victory over the Hornets at Alton Shell Stadium.

Being that there are several teams in the 2A Area 1 standings competing for places 2 through 4 behind first place and undefeated Jeff Davis (6-0), this was a very important region victory for the Panthers, who are 5-3-1 overall and are 3-3 in the region standings.

“All the teams in the middle are very close as in we’re all rebuilding. We’re all fighting for a spot,” SCHS Head Coach Michael Pepito said. “Every win that we can gather helps us. We are currently sitting in fifth place. We need to get to fourth or third so if we keep sneaking out wins, playing hard and doing what we have to do, then that will give us an edge. We’ve got to keep going.”

Sumter County Sophomore Midfielder Damien Cruz (#9) advances the ball up the pitch for the Panthers. To the left is his teammate, Junior Defender Jose Perez (#6).
Photo by Ken Gustafson

This was a come-from-behind victory for Sumter County, as the Panthers trailed 2-0 in the first half. CHS got goals from Fernando Fernandez and Josef Rivera in the first half, but in the second half, the Panthers created numerous chances to score. Their persistence in creating chances paid off in the 60th minute, as sophomore midfielder Damien Cruz was fouled inside the 18-yard box, resulting in a penalty kick for SCHS. Freshman forward Juan Aguirre stepped up and converted the PK and the Panthers only trailed 2-1.

As the second half continued, the Panthers continued to put pressure on Cook’s back line and created more chances to score. Their persistence would pay off once again with 4:50 to go in regulation, as Aguirre dribbled the ball right through the CHS defense and slotted it past the CHS goalkeeper for the match’s tying equalizer.

Neither team could break the 2-2 deadlock during regulation or during the two 10-minute overtime periods and it would have to be decided on penalty kicks.

Both teams would make and miss their share of PKs and it would come down to the foot of the Panthers’ Jose Diaz to decide the outcome of the match. Diaz’s shot glanced off the CHS goalkeeper and into the back of the net, securing the victory for the Panthers.

SCHS will try to improve on that success when they host the Purple Hurricanes of Fitzgerald on Friday at 7 p.m.