FAIRFAX — The trip to the DIII semifinal came down to a single kick on Friday. It was Levi Webb, in the third round of penalty kicks, who finally secured the win for the Enosburg Hornets.
No. 7 Enosburg traveled to Fairfax to take on the No. 1 seed in an epic, in-county quarterfinal that pitted two skilled and athletic teams against one another.
In the first game of the season, Fairfax earned the hard-fought 1-0 victory. On Friday, the teams battled through two scoreless halves, two overtimes, and three rounds of penalty kicks before the game was decided in favor of the Hornets.
The teams, even on the attack and both boasting strong defenses, had several opportunities to score during regulation.
With two minutes on the clock in the first half, Fairfax goalie, Kolton Gillian, made a heart-stopping save to keep Enosburg off the board.
With a minute left in the first, Enosburg goalie Ethan Jackson put on a defensive show of his own, leaping through traffic to pull a ball out of the air and rob the Bullets of a goal.
The teams took the field for the second half, and Enosburg had a scoring opportunity almost immediately.
Fairfax went on a series of direct kicks in a span of roughly ten minutes, but Enosburg deflected each one.
Gillian and Jackson and their corresponding defensive units worked tirelessly through regulation.
That grit and determination lasted through two overtimes, sending the teams into the penalty kick rounds.
It took three rounds before the Hornets could celebrate, but as Webb’s kick sent the ball into the back of the net, the Hornets went wild.
“It’s always a good game with Fairfax. We rarely get to play them in playoffs--I think it’s been eleven years,” said Enosburg coach Randy Swainbank.
“We knew we were matched very evenly this year, and we knew the in-county rivalry game would be a great game. It didn’t disappoint. The folks who showed up here got a good show.”
That show was predominately a defensive showdown.
“Both defensive units and both keepers did great. It was a battle in the midfield; both teams had chances. It was a classic Mountain League game,” said Swainbank.
Rich Ross, goalie coach for Enosburg and a former goalie himself, commiserated with the keepers.
“It’s very lonely back there. That net is 24 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Your opponent is supposed to put it in the net, and you have to do whatever you can to stop it,” said Ross.
Ross explained that the goalie can’t move off the line, but he can go up and down.
“You try to learn the kickers and see how they approach the ball. Ethan and Kolton both made beautiful saves today. Those guys were on!” said Ross.
“Ethan played a complete game--very aggressive when he needed to be. He made some great saves, and I couldn’t be prouder of the kid.”
Jackson, Webb, and Brendan Deuso all gave their thoughts on the game.
“They played their hearts out, and so did we. We both wanted to be king of the county,” said Jackson.
“Sitting in the goal, you know you’ve got to get it! You’ve got to guess it right. You look for all the little things, and we ended up getting the last PK.”
“This could have been my last game, and we wanted it so badly,” said Deuso, a senior. “I’m super proud of my team!”
Webb was obviously relieved.
“I wanted to get the game over with. On the third kick, I went to the same side and did what I did last time,” said Webb.
For coach Jake Hubbard and the Bullets, it was not the outcome they were hoping for.
“Somebody’s going to win--somebody’s going to lose. It’s a Franklin County rivalry, and every time we play them it gets harder and harder regardless of who wins,” said Hubbard.
“I have a ton of respect for Randy and what he does in Enosburg as a whole. It was a fun game, and while it stinks to lose, at the end of the day, you have to be proud that you got here.”
Gillian, a first-year goalie for Fairfax, has been impressive to watch throughout the season.
“Kolton came up with some big saves to get us through. He didn’t want to play goalie this year, but he assumed the position to fill a huge hole,”said Hubbard.
“He comes out and works hard every day. He stood on his head today, and he’s done that all year long.
“I’m so proud of these guys. 8-0 on the regular season, you can’t be upset with that.”