In an almost-quiet Evans Memorial Stadium, Akil Williams lined up to take the last PK of the night with the shots currently tied 3-3 needing a goal to earn a victory for Heritage and send them to the next round. Williams calmly took his spot, slightly jogged toward the ball and fired a goal in the back of the net to give the Patriots a 3-2 (4-3 PKs) win over Sequoyah to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"We work on penalties all year long. A little bit more this last week so you put them in that mindset. You can't replicate a game, but you try to replicate the scenarios and circumstances as best you can with pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure. Hard to do that on the training field, but our guys did good," Brandon Stewart, Heritage head coach, said.
"I'm proud of the boys. I'm proud to live to fight another day," Stewart added.
Without their star player Andre Deas - who was forced to sit because he was red carded - Heritage was had to make some lineup changes in its opening playoff game against Sequoyah. Adam North and Austin McMillan each scored a goal in regulation and stepped up in a big way for Heritage in the absence of Deas, who has 20 goals and eight assists on the season if that gives you any idea of just how talented he is.
"He's the one that unlocks the defense," Stewart said.
"He made a bad decision, he knows it. He's been fantastic in training. He's picked them up (the team) all game. He coached, he's been one of the assistant coaches tonight. You know what, we live to fight another day for him," he added.
Granted Heritage was without its star player, the Patriots still didn't play as well as they could have. Stewart says the team was strong physically, but struggled mentally.
"It's a little typical of not playing a match in a week. [We were] a little bit rusty, a little bit off game speed. When you're a little off like that it's a mental and psychological adjustment," Stewart said. "I thought that we were physically - I mean you could see at the end of the game, we were running past them at will. Our physical ability was good, but that mental and psychological aspect that's what we'll really have to combat for next week to wait another week until the second round. We'll work on that a whole lot during training this week."
Stewart says despite his team's flaws and mistakes he liked their fortitude.
Nigel Brown, Conner Domaleski, McMillan and North were the big contributors for Heritage. Domaleski was great in-goal and Brown was stellar defending and clearing the ball when the backs got in trouble.
The team as a whole played well, but missed some opportunities to score.
"We gave them too much space. Without our normal lineup we had to do some adjusting. I thought it was better in the second half, and you could see the game with the ebbs and flows. We got forward we just didn't get that final ball," Stewart said. "Their keeper kept them in the match, [he] played fantastic. We have to do a better job of creating. A lot of that takes care of itself when we have Andre back so that will be a big help."
Deas will suit up next time when Heritage hosts Richmond Academy on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.