For 94 minutes Tuesday night at Houck Stadium, Central soccer fans' hearts fluttered with every near-miss and every errant shot.
And then senior Heath Orr put the fans at ease with his 32nd goal of the season, a low liner that tucked into the right corner and gave the Tigers a 1-0 double overtime Class 3 sectional win over Francis Howell North (18-7-2).
Central's sectional win was its first in nine tries and will send it to the quarterfinal round Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Anheuser-Busch Conference & Sports Centre in Fenton, Mo. The Tigers (25-0) will face Marquette (23-2-2), which beat Rockwood Summit 1-0 in penalty kicks.
"Whatever happens now is just icing on the cake," Central midfielder Aaron Bornstein said after the win. "We beat the jinx by winning sectionals."
Added Orr, "This is our third sectional in a row, and we'd never even scored in this game. It's just amazing."
Playing on a wide field, Central's offense quickly went to work against the Knights' slower defenders. Central midfielder Grant Hengst pushed a shot over the net less than two minutes into the game, and minutes later Calen Wills just missed a chance to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
"We should have scored in the first five minutes," Bornstein said. "Calen hit one off the post."
The Tigers had another strong scoring chance off a corner kick with several players scrambling in front to put in the loose ball. Once again the Tigers came up just short.
"We came out strong," Central midfielder Jordan Duncan said. "I think they were a little scared because of our record."
Throughout the first half Central continued to get the better of the scoring chances but simply could not get a good shot off. In the meantime, the Knights started to get some counter attacks going with a few solid scoring chances that just didn't materialize.
"They had some good runs. One or two times that No. 6 got behind us," Central coach Tom Doyle said, referring to Knights forward Jack Traynor.
The game remained scoreless at halftime, but Central looked like it would break the tie with some strong play early in the second half. Orr nearly had an open look inside the box off a Duncan pass but could not get a shot off.
About midway through the second half the Knights had their best scoring chance when Central goalie Tony Leuckel's clearance deflected off a Knight forward and almost caromed into the net. Central's defenders were on top of the play and cleared the ball out of danger.
Both teams continued to be on edge not wanting to make a big mistake.
"Throughout the game you could tell whoever scored the first goal was going to win because the other team's morale would have suffered so much," Bornstein said.
Duncan looked like he would finally get the Tigers on the board with less than 10 minutes remaining but his point blank shot went right into the stomach of the Knight goalie.
After 80 minutes of regulation the score remained 0-0 and the game went to sudden-death overtime. Central kept the pressure on Howell North and had the ball in the Knights' end almost the entire first 10-minute overtime. But still the Tigers could not put the ball away.
"Really we controlled the play both overtimes," Bornstein said. "We controlled the play most of the game, we just didn't have the touch to put it away."
Central finally broke through with Orr's goal on a through ball from Hengst four minutes into the second overtime.
"I told him before overtime, I said 'Heath put it on your shoulders,' " Doyle said.
Orr's goal added to his school single-season record which is now at 32 and counting, and puts his career goal record up to 67.
"Grant hit me with a great ball and I just put it home," Orr said.
Besides winning its first sectional game in school history, Central's victory also marked the highest win total in the program's history. The Tigers also extended their winning streak to 25, breaking the program's previous longest winning streak set in 1994.
"If our defenders can keep it up like tonight, I don't see us losing," Orr said.
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