Forest High School (22-0-2) had never trailed this season, until the Warriors (18-2-3) were able to gain a 3-1 lead with three fast break goals in two minutes. Senior captain, Jason Collister led the Warriors with two goals, which turned out to be the difference in the dramatic 4-3 win.
“It’s great being the captain, you wanna step up your game and lead your team and I think I have been doing that for the past couple of games. Coming back after giving up those 2 goals (in the second half), scoring that overtime goal is a huge mental break for us and its great” said Collister.
The Forest Wildcats drew first blood, a goal on their first shot nearly half way through the first half by senior Jackie Kay. The early tempo was dominated by the Warriors, pouring shots on Wildcat keeper Lex Craggs.Then a three minute stretch started that would flip the game upside down. Collister was able to get one of his two goals after an Enrique Barboto corner. Then, two minutes later a cross found All-State forward Austin Labban, who one timed his shot into the back of the net. A minute after that Collister broke through the Wildcat back line and scored on a one on one with Craggs. It was a 12 shot, three goal first half against a team that had allowed four goals all season.
The second half was a different story, as the Warriors became more defensive and the Wildcats capitalized. First it was Jimmy Wear off of a set piece, then in the 69th minute Jesse Neiman chipped the ball over Warrior keeper Christian Knight to tie the game.In overtime Warrior coach Chad Ebright made what would turn out to be a crucial change, putting in freshman Michael Connell on the left wing in place of Derek Gebhard, who moved over to the right wing taking over for Logan Siben. With less than four minutes till penalty kicks, Forest committed a yellow card foul 25 yards out from the goal. Barboto lined it up, and played a soft ball for the far post. It bounced around and ended up at the foot of a well-positioned Gebhard, who buried the ball in the net.
“We were all very nervous. We were all giving it our all, trying to get the ball into the net. All I could tell is that the ball came out of nowhere and just hit my thigh and I was able to nail it in with my right foot,” said Gebhard.
The Warriors shot a total of 28 times, to the Wildcats 12. Knight had six saves in the win.
“I’m proud of the boys. We had the lead, we gave up the lead, and we came back and won it in the end…we need to prepare for our upcoming opponent by working hard, and honestly our whole team stepped up tonight and they all showed true heart and devotion,” said Ebright.
The Warriors will take on Gulf Coast, who walked over surprise semifinalist Fort Lauderdale 6-1 Friday night.
“We all need to rest and get better, because winning final four isn’t enough for us. We are going to win it all,” said Knight.
Evan Abramson/Staff Writer