By JOHN MILLER, Springfield, MO – Even though the whistle went against them, the Rolla Bulldogs used it to their benefit.
Locked in a scoreless match with the Central Bulldogs in the 70th minute, the Bulldogs generated a scoring chance inside the box, but a whistle negated that chance. Instead of a potential penalty kick, Rolla was called for a foul.
Their scoring threat was neutralized, but from there, Rolla’s level of play increased. Sophomore Jarret Gabriele’s goal in the first overtime period lifted the Bulldogs past Central 1-0 in overtime on Tuesday evening at the Cooper Sports Complex.
“I’ve heard a lot about Central this year, and it’s for real,” Rolla coach Mike Howard said. “They’re a good soccer team. For the first 70 minutes, they had us on our heels, no doubt. We felt like there should have been a call down here in the box, and that really turned the momentum in our favor. I think it gave our kids some energy and we built off that.”
Central did dominate for the majority on Tuesday, both in possession and goal-scoring chances. But each time, Rolla’s defense provided an answer. Keeper Drew Blair and the back line remained strong for the Bulldogs.
Rolla’s best scoring chances came late in the contest. In the 80th minute, Bulldogs’ captain Earl Medrano sent a cross from the left side of the box and over the defense, but Central keeper Jack Ellerbee scooped it up before Medrano’s teammates could make a play. In the 87th, a Central foul set up Rolla with a free kick. The ball found the foot of Gabriele, but his shot was knocked down by Ellerbee, ending another good run.
Rolla continued to pressure Central’s defense, and in the 88th minute, they found a crack. Sophomore Nathan Gonzales gave it to Gabriele who converted the game-winner.
“If we want it bad enough, we’re going to win,” Gabriele said. “We just have to come out and give it 100 percent, all 80 minutes of the game. Even in overtime, we did. They effort was there, and we won.”
The goal was intiallly ruled offsides by a linesman but was overruled by the referee.
“It’s the new rule that they’ve put into play off the offsides,” Howard said. “If it comes off a defender, it negates the offsides call. It was the right call. I’m not sure that I like that rule, but we’ll take the goal.”
Gabriele believes the result of Thursday’s match can propel Rolla moving forward.
“This can show everyone else that we can beat good teams,” Gabriele said. “We’ve got the ability to go far.”
Rolla 0 0 1 1
Central 0 0 0 0
87:26: Gabriele (Gonzales assist)