For the better part of 80-plus minutes, the Aberdeen Bobcats were embroiled in a frustrating 2A State Tournament game where they never seemed to catch a break against the 12th-seeded Fife Trojans.
But in the first minute of overtime, Evan Cone’s right foot washed all that away.
Cone’s blast from 35-yards out approximately 30 seconds into the first overtime snuck in just under the crossbar for a golden goal, giving Aberdeen a thrilling 1-0 victory and its first state-playoff win since 2016.
“I did not think that had a chance to go in. That was all in the luck,” Cone said of his incredible shot that won the game and set off arguably the loudest eruption of a Stewart Field crowd in Aberdeen boys soccer history. “I did not think that was going in at all. I thought it was going over.”
Cone’s epic golden goal came after what was a long struggle for the Bobcats (18-1 overall) as Aberdeen failed to capitalize on several prime scoring chances while dealing with an apparent disproportionate distribution of foul calls.
In the first half, senior Carlos Mendoza took a clearance from senior goal keeper Antonio Granados and found himself inside the 18-yard box with the ball, but was unable to get a shot on goal as the Trojans defense converged on the Aberdeen forward.
In the 23rd minute, an Aberdeen goal on a header was called offside as the Bobcats started to get the bulk of the scoring chances, but still found itself locked in a scoreless tie at halftime.
In the second half, Fife nearly took the lead on a shot that got past Granados but just missed wide of the top, near corner.
In the 53rd minute, Aberdeen failed to finish on multiple shots at point-blank range as the Trojan defense deflected two Bobcats shots before Fife keeper Braxton Dizon swallowed a hard shot from eight-yards away.
Fife’s best chance to break the tie came in the 58th minute when speedy senior forward Lance Nelson broke loose down the near hash and slotted an angled shot past a diving Granados. The ball bounced off the far post and along the line to the near post and was ruled to not have crossed the line.
The Fife coaching staff disputed the play and, after discussion amongst the referees, the call stood to keep the game scoreless.
“I think both teams had 1-2 legitimate goals that were called back. … That was a crazy game,” Aberdeen head coach Larry Fleming said. “Both teams had great chances and it could’ve went either way.”
Aberdeen senior midfielder Gio Castillo ripped a 25-yard shot that required a jumping save by Dizon followed later by an apparent Aberdeen goal that was called back due to a foul. A long free kick was flicked forward off the head of Cone toward senior forward Elmer Torres, who was called for a foul against a falling defender just before ripping a shot into the back of the net.
The Bobcats frustrations continued after a hard shot by senior midfielder Julian Garcia sailed just over the crossbar.
Aberdeen’s patience was near the breaking point after a long free kick was flicked on by senior midfielder Gilberto Lopez toward Torres, who got behind the Fife defense. Racing toward goal with the ball still bouncing on the turf, Torres was clipped from behind by Fife senior midfielder Joel Garcia, who leapt in the air from behind Torres and cleared the ball high across the back line with a dangerous high kick that hit Torres near his head. Torres was then slammed into by the oncoming Dizon, but the referee decided no foul had been committed and thus did not award a penalty kick.
“I was kind of bummed out there was no foul called and that PK didn’t happen,” Torres said through his teammate and interpreter Javier Garcia. “But overall, I was really happy about Evan scoring. It was exciting.”
Granados kept the game scoreless on Fife’s best chance to score late in the game, stopping a point-blank shot with just under eight minutes left.
Entering the first overtime period, the Bobcats wanted to make sure the game was decided during the regular course of play.
“Everyone reminded ourselves to stay in the game, don’t lose our heads,” Aberdeen senior midfielder Edwin Quintana said. “Before overtime, we were like, ‘We don’t want to go to PKs. We don’t ever want to go to PKs.’”
Less than a minute into the first overtime period, Cone belted a shot off a bounce from the middle of the field from 35 yards while surrounded by multiple Fife defenders. The ball blistered over the hands Dizon, who looked to be late in leaping for a deflection.
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Cone was chased across the field by his teammates in celebration as the large crowd exploded into a roar the Bobcats were anticipating to hear.
“It was amazing. When we were in our little huddle (before overtime), we were talking about how we couldn’t wait to hear the crowd roar for all of us because there were so many people here supporting us, and we used that as motivation for sure,” Quintana said. “So we all just left it on the field and Cone put it in. He just smashed it.”
While Cone didn’t initially think the shot was going in, Quintana – who was just a few feet away from Cone – said he had no doubts from his vantage point.
“I heard him strike it. I knew that was going in and I was like, ‘Yes!’” Quintana said. “As soon as he hit it, it looked like it was going straight for that crossbar where the goalie can’t get it.”
Fleming believed the low, setting sun in direct line of sight of Dizon played a part in the golden goal.
“It was great timing. We had talked about it before overtime that if you get a chance to shoot, shoot it because the sun is right there,” he said. “We had so many chances to shoot (during the game), but we didn’t get a good shot off or we didn’t hit it cleanly. We had lots of chances and finally, Evan hit that shot and it was so pure. That was such a nice shot. He crushed it.”
“It was a good feeling. I have chills all over,” said Cone, still in the afterglow of scoring the biggest goal of the season.
Fleming and his players added it was the Bobcats defense that helped them weather the storm and put them in position to win.
“The defense played hard and the whole team united and played really hard,” Torres said. “We played together and played as a team.”
“Our defense needed to step up a lot and it did,” Cone said. “We did everything right that we needed to and we won the game.”
“We knew their fast guys were going to be a challenge and Hugo Garcia and Colby Mendoza marked them up for most of the game,” Fleming said. “They limited them to very few chances and that team scores a lot of goals.”
Quintana said that Aberdeen made a conscious effort to remain mentally stable in the midst of a chaotic game.
“I think we were able to stay together as a team because we were able to see how their team was reacting and we kind of reflected on that and used it to not be unorganized as a team,” he said. “We worked together and it really worked out.”
“The second half was frustrating. It seemed like we weren’t getting many foul calls and were getting a lot called against us,” Fleming said. “But you battle through and keep working hard and good teams find a way to win.”
Fifth-seeded Aberdeen will face the winner of No. 13 West Valley (Spokane) versus No. 4 Sehome in a state quarterfinal game on Friday or Saturday (to be determined).
Fife 0 0 0 – 0
Aberdeen 0 0 1 – 1
First half – none.
Second half – none.
First overtime – 1, Aberdeen, Cone, 1st minute.