WINTHROP — The long, lonely trek a soccer player makes to the penalty line for a shootout might be the longest walk in sports. But after a win, the walk back is more like a dance on air. Just ask the Winthrop boys soccer team.

Jaxson August made 24 saves and Max Cheng made the deciding kick in the second penalty-kick shootout following a scoreless draw as the sixth-seeded Ramblers upset No. 3 Hall-Dale 1-0 on Wednesday in the Class C South quarterfinals at Melvin H. Simmons Complex.

Winthrop (6-9-0) won the second set of penalties 4-2 after 80 minutes of regulation, two 15-minute overtimes and a first round of penalties failed to produce a winner.

“It’s what we prepared for tonight,” Winthrop coach John Baehr said. “It’s what we prepared for.”

Winthrop visits second-seeded Traip in Saturday’s semifinal.

After losing to Hall-Dale by scores of 3-0 and 7-1 in the regular season — the latter happening just nine days earlier — Baehr went with a defensive strategy Wednesday against his Mountain Valley Conference rival, hoping August and the defense could hold down the fort long enough to force a shootout, where of course anything can happen. The Ramblers, who had zero corner kicks to the Bulldogs’ 11, employed a 4-2-3-1 formation.


Winthrop’s Max Cheng, left, and Hall-Dale’s Keegan Cary compete for possession during a Class C South boys soccer quarterfinal game Wednesday in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We saw some things on film, and the kids adjusted and believed in what we wanted do tonight, and they executed,” Baehr said. “I can’t be any prouder of them.”

The night was filled with drama, and the first set of the shootout, which ended in a 3-3 draw, was no exception. In the bottom of the fifth round, Hall-Dale’s Ben Platt uncorked a shot that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar with a giant “thwang!” After the officials conferred, they agreed the ball did not cross the goal line, forcing another five-round set.

Winthrop led 3-2 entering the top of the fifth round, when Cheng, a senior defender, made that long walk to the penalty line as the once-rabid crowd fell silent. Cheng lofted an arching shot that landed just above and to the left of Hall-Dale keeper Ben Nathan.

The Ramblers and their supporters broke the silence with a loud celebration.

“It’s super-stressful,” said Cheng, who noted his team had practiced PKs daily at recent practices. “My heartbeat must have been at least 180 beats per minute. I mean, we were all terrified. But we’ve got a great goalie, we’ve got a great team and we were together all the way.”

On the other side of the ball, August, the keeper, had a different perspective.


“There’s a lot of pressure,” the junior and three-year starter said. “You’ve just got to stay within your own head, keep it together and just play your best.”

Although regulation and the two overtimes lacked in goals, the intensity was in abundance, with plenty of collisions, slides, dives and muddy uniforms.

August’s saves were plentiful, too. Early in the second half, Hall-Dale’s Collin McArthur uncorked a fly ball that a leaping August just barely knocked away with his fingertips. With 2 1/2 minutes left in the first OT, August stopped an onrushing Thomas Murch, resulting in a collision as the ball bounced out of bounds.

“He’s a wonderful keeper. He’s first-team all-MVC, and it showed tonight,” Hall-Dale coach Jesse Rowe said. “He played wonderful. They parked the bus, and at playoff time, sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Winthrop’s defense was up to the task, too. In the second half alone, Ramblers Gabe Corey, Will Grant and Cheng booted away loose balls that evaded August, and Cheng sent a couple more loose balls to safety in OT.

Hall-Dale’s Nathan made five saves.

Despite the tough ending to the season, Hall-Dale (11-4-0) loses only five seniors to graduation and looks to be in the Class C hunt next season.

“Hopefully we use this as an opportunity to get better,” Rowe said. “In the shootout, we had five underclassmen taking shots, so the future’s bright here. As a head coach, I’m nothing but proud of the season my boys had, and I’m proud of every single one of them.”

Comments are no longer available on this story