The Eastern Mountaineers knew coming into their showdown with Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa that a win or tie would keep them in control of their destiny heading into their rescheduled match with Murray State College the next day. The Mavs knew that a win would clinch the regular season conference title for them.
After a fairly evenly played first half, the Mountaineers went into the break knotted at 0-0. Then 15 minutes into the second half, Tonkawa scored two goals within five minutes of each other and Eastern was facing a daunting mountain to climb. Sloppy play and a few minutes of poor concentration and the Mavs capitalized. Losing wouldn't put the Mountaineers out of playoff contention, but it would make the road to the tournament pretty steep.
Staring an 0-2 deficit in the face, and with the season on the line, the Mountaineers climbed back into the game led by their sophomores. A few minutes after the second Tonkawa goal, Eastern came to life on a dangerous ball into the box off a Jose Maria Ruarte free kick. Sophomore captain Edgar Torres got on the end of the Ruarte ball in the box, out working the Mavs defense for his second goal in as many games. The Mountaineers still had work to do as the two teams exchanged attacking opportunities, but the Eastern defense stood tall and limited the Mavs to distance shots for the next 20 minutes.
Freshmen defenders Dani Huerta and Leonardo Schulz led the back line of Kenan Williams and Alpha Diallo along with tough tackling from midfielder Tayze Ellington in making light work for goalkeeper Marc-Antoine Huzen who was stellar again in goal. Finally, with seven minutes remaining in the contest, Eastern broke through again on a clever ball from freshmen midfielder Cadine Graham to Chris Thorpe who went on a run to beat two defenders and the goalkeeper to tie the game at 2-2.
Both teams battled fatigue and each other for the remaining six minutes of regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime. The Mountaineers continued to take chances when they came and in the end settled for the tie setting them up for a "win and in" scenario on the last day of the season. With the tie, Tonkawa had to settle for second place in the regular season standings.
- The Mountaineers picked up points in the conference for the second time in as many nights.
- Edgar Torres scored his third career goal and second in as many nights.
- Marc-Antoine Huzen again went the distance playing all 110 minutes in goal and picked up 9 saves on the night.
- Eastern took 14 shots placing 7 shots on goal.
- Jose Maria Ruarte once again assisted on an Edgar Torres Goal.
- Freshmen midfielder Cadine Graham picked up his first career assist when he combined with Thorpe for his first career goal.
HEAD COACH JON EVAN SPEAKS
"Once again our team battled against all the obstacles thrown in their path. They continue to show their resilience and toughness and quite honestly a side of them I wasn't sure existed. They can be proud of their effort tonight for sure, as I am of them. I hope for their sake they don't dig such a hole for themselves going forward. For my sake too, if they keep up these last minute come backs I'm going to reach retirement age prematurely," Coach Evan said. "Tonkawa is a fast athletic team and will be a tough out for whoever has to face them in the tournament next weekend. They've had a great season and deserve everything they have achieved. Nevertheless, this was a gritty result for our team and our boys earned it, even if it was via the most difficult route. Now we need to re-focus and get some rest, and be prepared for tomorrow's contest. It will take our best effort to get through tomorrow. Everyone should be ready to go. These are the types of games that competitive players look forward to playing in."
Eastern plays their final home game of the season on Tuesday, Oct. 23 versus Murray State College. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.