Both teams made their first four penalty kicks, but after Ocean City missed its fifth, Timber Creek senior sweeper Mike DeFeo calmly sent a shot into the upper right corner of the net. That set off a celebration for a school that just won its first sectional title.
Fittingly, DeFeo, who plays a position that usually gets noticed only when the defense is burned, was shining in the spotlight.
On a Timber Creek team that is 18-2-3 and will face Princeton in Tuesday's state Group 3 semifinals, DeFeo isn't usually a headliner, but a vital part nevertheless as a second-team all-conference performer.
What was said most about DeFeo was that he wanted to be in this situation with the outcome on his shoulders, or more accurately, his right foot.
So he claimed that there was no extra pressure and that he had only one thought as he prepared for the dramatic penalty kick.
"I was thinking I am going to bring it home for my team," he said.
Here was more of his thought process: "I am a senior, it's my last year, and I have to win it for us," he said.
Simple as that, and then he went out and won it for them.
Of course, while the winners advance and are saluted, what should be said of Ocean City? The Red Raiders had taken a two-year hiatus from being a perennial Group 3 contender, a program with 12 sectional-final appearances and eight titles since 1995. When Ocean City began this season 2-3, it looked as if recent history would continue.
Ocean City, though, hasn't lost since, including this game, which technically counts as a tie. So the Red Raiders finish 17-3-2 and with their pride intact.
"I am more proud of this team than any other group," Ocean City coach Aaron Bogushefsky said. "There is no shame in this loss."
Then he caught himself:
"This wasn't a loss, either."
No it wasn't.
Ocean City's Steve Zellers broke a scoreless tie with a spectacular goal that began at midfield. He weaved by a few defenders and then, from just inside the box, fired a shot that clearly sank the emotions of Timber Creek.
"I felt so down after that," DeFeo said.
But . . .
"Our whole team pulled through and came together as a team," DeFeo said, "and we wanted it."
And they got it in the 79th minute on a play started by junior Giuseppe DeLuca, who is dangerous taking on defenders.
DeLuca tore down the right flank and sent a cross that sophomore Alex Kourahanis tipped in for the equalizer.
"Just a great run by Giuseppe," Kourahanis said.
And a great effort by two teams, neither of which technically lost in fitting championship fashion.
Ocean City 0 1 0 0 – 1
Timber Creek 0 1 0 0 – 1
(Timber Creek won on penalty kicks, 5-4.)
Goals: OC–Steve Zellers; TC–Alex Kourahanis.
Saves: OC–Kieran Keyser 13; TC–Andrew Garcia 12.
Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or @sjnard on Twitter.
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