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By rule, the lower edge of the crossbar hovers 2.44 meters from the turf. It’s within those tenths and hundredths that the King George boys soccer team saw what measures as its best season to date ricochet into a crisp May night.
The Foxes’ unblemished run — 12 consecutive victories and a Battlefield District championship — succumbed to the glorified rounding error when one penalty kick teased the twine in regulation, and another audibly quashed their hopes following 20 minutes of scoreless overtime.
“It’s a tough way for a great season to end,” King George coach Jeff Butler said Thursday night, understating the dominant sentiment following the top-seeded Foxes’ 0–0 (4–3 PKs) loss to Monacan in the Region 4B quarterfinals.
The match, which started around 7:45 p.m., featured an abundance of physical challenges and a dearth of scoring chances, with the first 40 minutes elapsing without a goal on either side.
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Said exertion extended to the head referee, who pulled his groin less than a minute into the second half. A series of frantic phone calls followed, and 20 minutes later his replacement jogged on to the pitch to an uncharacteristically warm reception from the crowd.
With 12 minutes to play, King George senior Dillon Carriaga absorbed a challenge in the box, and the whistle confirmed that the Chiefs were, in fact, the guilty party. As Carriaga planted his left foot and cocked his right one, Monacan goalie Stefan Kapitanov made his best guess as to the trajectory of the impending strike.
Kapitanov was incorrect, however, and could only watch from the turf as Carriaga delivered a ball to the center of the cage. As it bounded away after hitting the crossbar, Monacan’s players leapt for joy while Carriaga bit the collar of his jersey in apparent distaste.
That amounted to the Foxes’ best chance in regulation, and neither side generated much in the way of organized offense during the first two five-minute overtime periods.
As he gathered his players prior to the first of two golden goal periods, Butler first reminded them of the rules: “We have 10 minutes if we need it,” before issuing an admonishment: “Let’s not need it.”
Unfortunately, resolution would demand not only those 10 minutes but a series of five penalty kicks, taken under the shadow of the scoreboard at the stadium’s far end.
“You win in regulation or you leave it to the fates of the PK,” Butler said.
Initially, those fates seemed to favor the Foxes (17–1–1), who converted their first three attempts; Dillon Carriaga earned a measure of vindication by searing his shot off Kapitanov’s fingertips for a 2–1 advantage. When Calvin Sanders buried his, King George was one Monacan miss or save away from extending its postseason run.
But the Chiefs converted their next two attempts, and Daniel Boyd saw his parried away by Kapitanov. That left senior captain Ryan Carriaga, the newly minted Battlefield District player of the year, to begin the long, solitary walk from where both teams had assembled at midfield.
The silence was broken twice, first by the referee’s whistle and then by the sound of the ball intersecting its intended target, at an unfortunate height of 2.44 meters.
“If I had to do it over again, I’d put the same guys on the spot,” Butler said. “They’ve earned that opportunity … It’s just tough. I know they’re going to be feeling that for a long time because their senior season ended with what they’ll feel like are opportunities they should’ve converted.”