MOORESBORO — The Buckin’ Elks weren’t supposed to be in the fourth round of the 1A soccer state playoffs.
They weren’t supposed to give third-ranked Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy a game Saturday night on the road.
And they sure weren’t supposed to take the Gryphons to double overtime.
But Elkin, led by a strong senior class featuring keeper Jesus Rivera and field captains Daniel Cortes, Drew Shinkle and Jose Rojas, gave Thomas Jefferson Academy all they wanted and them some Saturday before seeing their magical run through the postseason come to an abrupt end in the second extra session, 1-0.
“Midway through the season, the kids were saying that we would be a one- or two-rounder, and honestly that’s how I felt, too. But towards the end of the season, we started playing better soccer,” Head Coach Heath Foster explained. “In the first couple rounds of the playoffs, all the stuff that we had been working on started clicking and we were scoring. We started scoring every three or four shots instead of every 19 like we were doing.
“We played them in a tough, tight game last year, too. So we knew it would be close again.”
In the 96th minute of a scoreless contest, Mathias Talbert broke loose behind the Elkin back-line and out-raced a defender down the field before poking the ball past a diving Rivera for the go-ahead goal.
The Elks desperately looked for the equalizer in the final 3:51 but came up empty, dropping a heart-breaking 1-0 decision.
“We played a lot of survival in the first half. But they slowed down in the second half and into overtime; they really only hurt us in transition. We sent so many people up to score, but they were great on their clears. They would hit it long and would be off to the races,” Foster said. “On the goal, we just had so many people up. And that No. 21 (Talbert) is pretty stupid good and has a set of wheels on him and a great touch.
“Jesus can only so make so many miraculous saves before the door comes crashing in,” he continued. “He saved us on about five or six from within 12 yards tonight. But they out-played us and capitalized on their opportunities.”
Rivera was dominant in goal all night for the Elks, stopping a season-high 20 shots on goal, including five diving saves.
“He had been in a little bit of a funk,” Foster said. “I told the kids that it’s unfortunate that we lost because we have been peaking in the playoffs and been playing our best soccer. He came out here tonight and played out of his mind.
“He would have definitely got the game ball if we had managed to survive this.”
Elkin finishes the season with a 13-9-2 mark after securing the Mountain Valley Conference’s top 1A seed with a third-place finish.
“It’s always nice for any of our Elkin teams to go far. We wanted to take it a little further though, but I’m definitely proud of this team, especially in my official first year as the head coach of these guys. I’m going to miss these seniors,” Foster added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.