MIDDLETOWN – A shot from Jonathan Rand with less than two minutes remaining in regulation sailed high over the crossbar, an indication to most that Saturday’s Class C boys soccer state semifinal between Solomon Schechter and Geneseo was destined for overtime.
But this Schechter team has made a habit of winning in miraculous fashion, and this game would be no different.
With just 5.4 seconds left, Ben Goldberg sprinted to the end line and sent a desperation cross screaming toward the far post. Noam Goldberg (no relation) was waiting in the perfect spot and calmly headed it in for an unbelievable 1-0 win.
The Lions will go for their first-ever state title against Section 4 champion Notre Dame at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Middletown High.
“I was thinking overtime, for sure,” Noam Goldberg said. “I don’t count on these dramatic endings. They’re wonderful. It’s picture perfect, but I don’t know what to make of them. It’s surreal.”
All five of Schechter’s playoff wins have been decided by one goal, including one that went to overtime and two in which they scored in the final minute.
Miles Ogihara had either scored or assisted on three of Schechter’s five playoff goals entering the state final four, but the Lions’ leading scorer was limited to one minute on Saturday due to an ankle injury.
“It was quite an adjustment,” Noam Goldberg said. “We shifted our whole formation around Miles.”
Noam Goldberg replaced Ogihara as the lone forward, but Schechter’s chances were limited, particularly in the second half.
The defense stood tall, though, and has allowed just one goal in its last five games.
“We graduated our entire defense – except for me – from last year,” Ben Goldberg said. “We were a little shaky at some points during the season, but at this point, we’ve really picked it up.”
Player of the game: Ben Goldberg, Solomon Schechter — Playing without its best offensive player, there was even more pressure on the Lions’ back line. Goldberg, a junior captain, helped preserve the shutout and created the winning goal with a long run down the field and a well-placed assist.
“None of it would have happened without Ben,” Noam Goldberg said. “He’s just an amazing player.”
Turning point: It came with 5.4 seconds left. Geneseo outshot and out-possessed Schechter throughout the second half, but none of that mattered when Goldberg found Goldberg for the lone tally of the game.
Stat line: Solomon Schechter (13-4-2) — Noam Goldberg scored on an assist from Ben Goldberg and Noah Dunn made six saves. The Lions took nine shots and put five on goal. Geneseo (19-2-1) — Gang Imcham made four saves and the Blue Devils took 14 shots, putting six on goal.
Quotable: “I think it’s a blessing that we’re able to do this,” Noam Goldberg said. “It’s amazing that as a Jewish school, we can have a good time on Friday night and do all of our prayers, services and traditions. Then we come here and make this all happen by pulling out a win. I think it’s really special.”