During tournament time, there's always a lot of drama.
It doesn't matter whether the game's a blowout or a nail-biter - everything's on the line for both teams. One team's season will end, while the other moves on to play another day.
With that premise in mind, it was the craziest 28-and-a-half hour span in high school sports earlier this week. Three high school soccer matches went down to the wire, each match seemingly trying to outdo the previous one.
It all started with the Lakeview-Cardinal Mooney boys Division II sectional final on Monday at Eastwood Mall Field at Bo Rein Stadium in Niles - the first match of a boys-girls doubleheader. This match was supposed to occur last Saturday night, but because of weather, it was postponed two days.
Having been the district final the past two seasons, it played out like the previous encounters - a tight, up-and-down match in which both teams left everything out on the field. Unlike the previous two matchups, however, the Bulldogs and Cardinals needed extra time to decide it, and during the 96th minute, Austin Olbrych poked the ball into the back of the net to punch Lakeview's ticket into the next round with a 2-1 win.
Following the match, I thought there was absolutely no way the Lakeview-Niles girls Division II district semifinal that followed could match the intensity and drama of the first match, right?
Oh, how wrong I was. In fact, the second match outdid the first.
The Red Dragons equalized not once, not twice, but three times in regulation to force the second overtime match of the night. The last goal came in the 78th minute, just more than 2 minutes before the end of regulation. When Gabby Infante scored that final Niles goal, it reminded me of what I told Lakeview athletic director Michael DeToro (somewhat jokingly) about 10 minutes earlier when the score was tied at 2: "I have a feeling this one is going to overtime."
While in the boys match earlier the players' legs seemed sapped of energy, the girls match came alive in extra time, with both sides having multiple shots go off the crossbars and posts. It took an Alli Pavlik goal in the 108th minute to end the match before penalty kicks, which was a sigh of relief for somebody on a deadline.
The following day, an entertaining match between Lordstown and Garfield in Garrettsville for a boys Division III district semifinal ensued, but once again, I didn't expect it to reach the crazy levels from the previous night.
Well, once again, the action exceeded expectations. The Red Devils held a 2-0 lead coming out of halftime, only to see the G-Men erase it and take a lead in a 9-minute span. Lordstown going down a man after a red card in the 48th minute sparked Garfield's three-goal charge, and the G-Men dominated for most of the second half.
The only way the match could surpass the suspense from Monday's action would be for 10-man Lordstown to complete a comeback in the final 10 minutes against the run of play, and that's exactly what happened, as Lordstown completed the improbable comeback.
These two days may not have equaled to all the drama from the final day of the CONCACAF Hexagonal World Cup qualifying round earlier this month or the final day of the 2011-2012 English Premier League season, but as far as this area goes, not much can top that.