POCATELLO – It was Century versus Preston.
A state bid and a spot in the 4A District 4-5 title game was on the line.
So Tuesday’s edition of the revved rivalry was not going to be decided in 80 minutes, nor in overtime this time. Penalty kicks? Why not?
When they were completed, Century players enthusiastically encircled teammate Ellie Surmelis, who clinched a 3-2 home win after the Diamondbacks outscored the Indians 3-1 in PKs.
“This rivalry has seen everything,” Preston coach Brandon Lyon said. “But it hadn’t seen PKs yet, so just add another chapter to the book of this. You know what, it was a great game.”
Surmelis added, “It’s always a really dramatic game against Preston.”
“That’s how it is,” Century coach Jamshid Roomiany said.
Century (13-3) has beaten Preston (11-5-2) in districts for three consecutive seasons, but each was decided after regulation.
The season series was 1-1 after the Indians had a 4-3 comeback win before the Diamondbacks won the second game 3-2.
Before yet another tense battle at Century High, players were all shaking their limbs and jumping because of the bitter 45-degree cold on a gloomy, overcast day.
When the first half concluded, Century was ahead 2-0 with goals from Emma Edgley, who scored in scrums in the box on set pieces. The Diamondbacks had four shots on goal, compared to zero by Preston in the first 40 minutes. But Surmelis said the team was still concerned after giving up a 3-0 lead to the Indians earlier in the season.
“We knew it definitely could happen,” Surmelis said. “We were all scared of it.”
Their fear was justified as Preston tallied five shots on goal in the second half – three more than Century – to take control of the game.
The Indians got new life on a 45th-minute own goal off a corner kick. Preston got another unconventional goal five minutes before the end of the second half, with Quincy Hyde dribbling the ball a couple yards into the box before it squirted past goalkeeper Shelby Vasas and just past the goal line.
After two uneventful 10-minute golden goal periods, the dropping temperature and approaching nightfall was met with pouring rain as teams lined the midfield stripe.
Preston turned out to be ineffective or unfortunate, with one kick sent at the post and another at the crossbar. Hyde tied the score at 1-1 on Preston’s second shot, but that turned out to be its lone goal. Before Surmelis capped PKs, Halle Thomson and Emma Edgley scored for Century.
“When we went to PKs, we were confident we were going to win,” Roomiany said. “It’s a pretty easy reason: We train for that. Sometimes, our opponents don’t. We do. We knew exactly who was going to go.”
It sealed Century’s 12th consecutive win of the season after starting 1-3 and gives the D-backs a chance to win their 19th district title in 20 seasons.
Preston was the cause of them not being able to go 20 for 20.
The Indians lighted the rivalry with a 1-0 upset win in the 4A District 5-6 title game against the Diamondbacks in 2015.
An unshakable image of the aftermath – a Century player holding her two hands on her head in disbelief while the Indians celebrate – is still seared in Roomiany’s memory, like anomalous events are.
While it was cause for disappointment for the Century coach, it resulted in euphoria for Preston, which has succeeded since then, but not won another district title.
The Indians can still make it to the 4A state tournament after missing it for the first time in four years in 2017.
“We’ve great seniors this year,” Lyon said of Sayge Keller, Makenna Coburn and Alyssa Wood. “And those three seniors – I have no doubt – will pull this team through.”
Century plays Saturday at Twin Falls in the 4A District 4-5 title game, while Preston hosts Pocatello on Thursday in the semifinals of the loser’s bracket.