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Earlville-Leland’s Tom Johnson (No. 12) battles Indian Creek’s Jake Gullstrand during the Red Raiders’ 1-0 overtime win Tuesday in a Class 1A Indian Creek Regional semifinal. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
WATERMAN — It took the Earlville-Leland soccer team nearly 83 minutes, but it finally broke through.
Senior J.J. Clason capitalized with a goal three minutes into extra time, and the Red Raiders held on for the final 17 minutes of overtime to post a 1-0 semifinal win Tuesday over Indian Creek at the Class 1A Indian Creek Regional on a windy day in Waterman.
Clason’s booming goal from the right side — set up by a beautiful pass from fellow senior Tom Johnson that lofted above the Indian Creek defense — proved to be all the offense senior goalkeeper Danny Pfaff and the Red Raider defense needed to secure the victory in E-L’s third shutout of the IC side this fall.
“I had to do it for the team. It’s something that had to be done,” said Clason of his one-timer that beat IC keeper Aaron Bolton to the left side of the net. “Tom had the nice loft over the defense and then I just hit it into the back of the net.”
Despite losing twice to the Red Raiders this season by a combined margin of 11-0, Indian Creek battled fiercely throughout the contest on its home pitch.
“They put up a real good fight. We weren’t expecting it all. We beat them twice,” Clason said. “We just need to bring the fire from the beginning and not wait until the end. They put up a good fight but we’re glad we pulled it out.”
Earlville-Leland (13-8-1) coach Tim Cottingim saluted the Timberwolves’ effort, although he added his squad came out a bit flat.
“They played tough. They played aggressive on their home field. It was their last game possibly and they wanted to win, too,” Cottingim said. “I think the difference in this game (from the last two) was just (Indian Creek’s) energy level, and our lack thereof, honestly.
“We were very flat for a very long time, I thought. We got away with one honestly,” Cottingim added.
With E-L junior striker Hyaitt Duffey still nursing an ankle injury — and some bumps and bruises in the midfield — Cottingim said that the Red Raiders’ offense was not quite in sync.
He credited Pfaff, who had 12 saves, and the defense with laying the foundation for the semifinal win.
“We’re not quite the same offensively. We’ve got some injuries in the midfield and up front with Hyaitt. We shut these guys out twice during the regular year and we said before the game that if we shut these guys out we’ve got it,” Cottingim said. “I thought we’d score a little more. We made it a little more nerve-wracking than I wanted, but if our defense stays strong like that we win games. Danny’s a good goal keeper, that’s all there is to it.”
Indian Creek coach Eric Schrader said his squad gave it its all trying to pull off the upset win.
“It’s tough to beat a team three times. We knew that and we knew (E-L) would probably struggle with that a little bit. … We’ve got a senior-led team and they just didn’t want the season to come to an end,” Schrader said.
Notes: Earlville-Leland will face the winner of today’s Mendota versus Paw Paw matchup in Friday’s championship game.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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