By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Admittedly the spectators in the Brighton Stadium March 25 were ready to get out of the cold the final minutes of the Millington/Brighton Soccer game.
With game-time temperatures in the mid 30s with consistent winds, a few fans were complaining about cold toes and fingers as the visiting Millington Trojans were ahead 2-0 with less than 3 minutes to go.
But the homestanding Cardinals rallied for two late goals from Dustin Hammer and Austin Chapman to tie the contest at the end of 80 minutes.
“We just had to pull together as a team, really,” Chapman said. “And trust one another to make big plays as we went down the field.”
New Brighton Head Coach William Chambers watched his team possess the ball early in the game. The Cardinals didn’t have much trouble getting the ball down the field with two shot opportunties in the first 10 minutes.
But Trojan goalie Kevin Reilly was there to make the saves and keep the game scoreless. And Reilly’s newest defenseman Antonio Webber played a solid game according to Millington Head Coach Larry Dagen.
Webber, a senior in his first season, has played football and basketball for Millington since his freshman year. The Bethel running back signee brought his footwork and field awareness to his new position stopping Cardinal strikers from getting clean shot at Reilly.
Eventually Webber and his line got the ball to Millington strikers like Brendon Van Emelen. The Huntingdon College Soccer signee got loose in the Brighton defense and was able to get a shot off at the 5-minute and 25-second mark. Van Emelen was successful scoring the goal to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
Millington came out from halftime with the same intensity possessing the ball. And Van Emelen was able to create space with his dribble and take a shot connecting with the back of the net giving the Trojans a 2-0 lead with slightly less than 28 minutes remaining.
For the next 25 minutes both team went back and forth down the cold, soggy turf of Brighton Stadium. Then the Cardinals turned out their intensity not giving up on the game.
“It was the desire this team has not to lose,” Hammer said. “I feel like we came together as a group and a family. I think heart is what got us through it. We had enough heart and the team pulled together. We just had the desire to pull it back together.”
Hammer acquired a Trojan penalty in the box leading to a one-on-one with Reilly. On the penalty kick Hammer was successful making the score 2-1 with 2 minutes and 36 seconds left.
From midfield, the Cardinals were aggressive and attacked the ball gaining possession. And that led to another Millington foul near the box. The yellow card on a Trojan set up a kick inside the goalie box.
Reilly was able to make the initial save. But on the rebound, Chapman dove with his head to guide the ball across the line and tie the game at 2-2.
In the final minute, Van Emelen had a chance to win the game and get a hat trick. But three Brighton defenders collasped around him negating his shot opportunity. And time ran out with the game tied at 2-2.
“Sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way,” Chapman concluded. “You have to wait until the end to get them in. At least we didn’t stop playing there at the end. We finally got it back.”