It took more than 269 minutes for North Salem to crack a stingy Haldane defense, but it was well worth the wait.
With just 11 seconds remaining in the second overtime of Saturday night’s Class C final at Lakeland High — 11 seconds! — Devyn Sheth weaved a pass through to Michael Dutt, who buried the winner moments before the game would have gone to penalty kicks.
The dramatic 1-0 win gave the top-seeded Tigers (13-5) the title after they had lost to the Blue Devils twice during the regular season.
“The ball came in off the throw-in and Devyn poked it past the Haldane defense, right to where I had a chance to shoot on goal,” Dutt said. “It happened so fast, but the next thing I know, it’s in the back of the net.”
No. 3 Haldane (8-7-2) and goalkeeper Blaine Fitzgerald shut North Salem out in two previous meetings, and the senior continued exasperate the Tigers with the championship on the line.
North Salem had several chances to win it prior to Dutt’s heroic goal, including a shot that was cleared off the goal line by a Blue Devils’ defender with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
“The Haldane defense was very strong throughout the game and we were very lucky to slip one in during OT,” Dutt said. “It was very frustrating when we get that many chances and couldn’t finish, but our team believe that we could do it. After the first OT, we were thinking about PKs, but coach (Ron) Hendrie helped us give one last push to score.”
In total, the Tigers outshot Haldane, 29-5, but Hendrie said that their lack of finishing “was definitely frustrating” and led to them deviating from the game plan for a stretch in the second half.
“For a brief spell, we resorted to kicking it forward rather than playing tactically,” he said. “We regained our composure and returned to our purposeful passing game. … The shots that we took that looked like they were going in were saved by their 6-7 goalkeeper, who played amazingly well.”
It was a surprise to even see Haldane in the final after an early exit in 2015, but an upset of last year’s champion and New York State runner-up Solomon Schechter in the semis was a signature moment in the first year under new coach Steve Schweikhart.
“Tonight was just an epic soccer match,” Schweikhart said. “Both teams were absolutely relentless for 110 minutes. You have to give credit to Ron’s squad. They kept working and kept working, and finally got the tally they needed. At the same time, the admiration I have for my squad can’t be measured.”
North Salem, which will receive a bye into the regional final on Saturday at Byram Hills High, ensured that both regular season losses to Haldane will be an afterthought thanks to a memorable finish in the title game.
“Our boys were fiercely determined coming into this match,” Hendrie said. “I am very proud of the effort that each of them put into the game.”
In just their second year as a Class C school — North Salem was dropped down from Class B prior to the 2015 season — the Tigers will have the opportunity to compete in the state tournament.
“We all definitely wanted another chance to play Haldane and get the win,” Dutt said. “I give a lot of credit to our defense and midfielders for shutting down their attack, and my teammates for never giving up.”