After a tight match that ended regulation with Rome and South Paulding tied, 1-1, the Wolves used their PK skills to down the Spartans, 4-2, in the penalty shootout that followed two scoreless extra periods.
Keeper Jimmy Franklin used a diving save to deny the Spartans their first kick from the line, while Selvin Cornejo sunk a goal in the middle of the net to give Rome the edge.
South Paulding made their next two PKs, but both were answered by Rome’s Stewart Hoy and Dylan Horne.
The Spartans last kick blasted toward the top center of the goal, where Franklin jumped up to bat it down.
Justin Van Riper made his kick from the line to seal the victory for Rome (7-3, 3-2).
While most teams would find their nerves running high in an overtime game like Friday’s, Rome coach Chris Cochran said his team felt right at home from the penalty mark.
“I feel very confident when we have to shoot PKs,” he said. “Our kids work on them everyday after practice. Our keeper is used to seeing PKs. He’s good for stopping at least one in every roud, so I felt good about it.”
In fact, the penalty mark was Rome’s friend during regulation as well, as their one in-game goal came from a penalty kick scored by Hampton Cauthen in the 16th minute of play.
But South Paulding didn’t let the Wolves enjoy the lead for long, as they responded with a goal in the 22nd minute of play.
The rest of the game showed a strong Wolves defense punctuated by a diving save by Franklin when a Spartan player broke lose in the 36th minute to set up a dangerous shot at the goal. Franklin had four saves in the game.
“I want to shout out to my defense,” said Cochran. “They played great soccer. They played 90 minutes and gave up just one goal against a very skilled team.”
But while Rome was shutting down the Spartans’ offense, the Wolves’ offense was facing trials of its own.
Rome outshot South Paulding, 13-8, on the night, but were unable to get past the strong Spartan defense to find the goal.
“South Paulding has an excellent team,” said Cochran, “and if they weren’t such a solid defensive team, we would have score a lot of goals.
“They’re just excellent and a great team. But my kids stepped up, and it was a war of wills – who wants to win at the end? Our kids definitely wanted to win in the end.”
Cochran said that close games like Friday’s aren’t uncommon because of the tough region Rome moved up to this year, and that it makes the win that much more important.
“This region is tough. When you go from one region to another, it just gets tougher. Seven of the 11 teams in our region were state-playoff teams last year, so it’s a very difficult region and very competitive.
“I’m just proud of our boys. That was a great game with two really great teams going after each other.”