Sussex Academy edges Newark Charter in penalty kicks

Sussex Academy’s Ryan Burke takes a shot on goad headshot against Newark Charter in the first half during the Division ll soccer tournament at Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Eighty minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods weren’t enough to decide a winner.

It took a round of penalty kicks and, in the end, it was a pivotal save by Cole White and a clinching score by Kyle Berdini that saved the day for Sussex Academy.

Knotted in a 0-0 game through the game’s first 100 minutes of play, the seventh-seeded Seahawks outscored Newark Charter School, 5-4, in penalty kicks to clinch the 0-0 PK victory in the DIAA Division II boys’ soccer state tournament first round showdown at Dover High Tuesday night.

“It’s a small program, in a small league, and they came up big today,” said Sussex Academy coach John Oberholtzer. “We practiced a lot the other day on PKs and they were very consistent, so I have the greatest confidence in these guys and they’ve really earned it.”

Sussex Academy’s Allen Hopler, left, goes for a headshot against Newark Charter’s Landon Senphachanh in the first half during the Division ll soccer tournament at Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

It was the first state tournament win in the short history of the Sussex Academy boys’ soccer program. The team, in its fifth season of fielding a varsity squad, had made two previous trips to the tourney but went one-and-done in each of those seasons.

The squad also tied its best win total during the regular season, putting up a 10-4-1 record to nab the seventh seed in the tourney – the highest tourney seed in school history.

A 1-0 loss to Conrad School as the ninth seed a season ago and a 4-0 loss to Caravel Academy as the eighth seed in 2016 marked the Seahawks’ other two tourney appearances.

“We’re very happy we can bring the first state tournament win to Sussex Academy,” said Oberholtzer. “We know it doesn’t get any easier [in next round].”

Sussex Academy moves on to face second-seeded Wilmington Friends School this Saturday. The game is set for 5 p.m. at Smyrna High.

Dating back to Oct. 17, Sussex Academy is riding a five-game win streak, putting up four straight shutouts to end the season.

“It feels amazing,” said the junior goalkeeper White. “We’re a family, we play together, and we did this as a team.”

Both squads successfully made the first three kicks of the best-of-five round of PK’s, with junior forward Allen Hopler, sophomore midfielder Michael Daniello and junior forward Ryan Burke hitting the back of the net.

After White’s save on Charter’s fourth try, senior defender Milan Patel found the back of the net to put the Seahawks ahead, 4-3.

“I couldn’t tell you what was going through my mind,” White said of his save. “I just felt it coming, read him right and I just got the save and we benefited from it.”

Junior Devan Patel knotted it up, 4-4, by scoring on Charter’s final attempt.

That’s when Berdini, the senior midfielder, came up to attempt the Seahawks’ fifth kick, slipping it past the goalkeeper for the clincher.

“It felt amazing, but it was all a team effort,” Berdini said of his goal. “I did it for our keeper, he saved us in the end. He came up big, all their shots were on target, he’s the one who saved us.”

Junior Justin Farquhar, sophomore Adam Narvaez, senior Adejoyinolu Ojo and Patel made Charter’s four PKs.

Sussex Academy had a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half, but it wasn’t until the 50th minute and beyond that the Seahawks really started applying pressure to the back line of the Patriots.

The offense was able to create scoring opportunities, spending most of the half on the attack, but was unable to finish in front of the net.

“I felt that it was a very good high school game,” said Oberholtzer. “It went back and forth, they had their moments where they had the momentum, but then we in the second half really kind of jumped on them.

“Something was going to happen. That’s the hardest part of the game, is to score,” he continued. “So, we did everything but put the ball in the back of the net. Our keeper was brilliant – he’s back there running our defense.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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