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SOCCER: Utica stuns top-ranked Troy Athens

TROY – When Utica’s Ryan Bankstahl sent his free kick towards the Troy Athens net with less than eight minutes left to play in the second 10-minute overtime of Saturday afternoon’s district final match, it looked as if it was a simple shot on goal and not much more.

But instead it turned out to be much more than an average shot on goal.

Bankstahl sent the shot in from just inside midfield and towards the top right corner of the goal, a shot that was corralled by the Athens keeper, but the ball had carried over the goal line and into the net, leading Utica to a 3-2 district title win and handing the No. 1 ranked Red Hawks their first and only loss of the season.

Bankstahl said he sent the shot in looking to set up a header for senior Noah Brenizer right in front of the net, but the ball ended up being on target and added that his initial reaction was that the keeper made a clean save and wasn’t aware that it was a goal until the official signaled the ball had crossed the line.

“I was just trying to serve it in and get a header and maybe get it on Noah’s head, but it ended up being on frame and ended up being the game winning goal,” he said.

“No, I turned and was like ‘oh, ok,’” he said after seeing the ball caught in the air, assuming it was a clean save. “But when he (the official) put the flag up, everything just went crazy.”

Utica head coach Carl Territo said that he felt his team had a chance to pick up the win on Saturday afternoon considering how his team had been playing as of late and added that his team continued to battle all game long despite falling behind early on in the game.

“It was a good win, we knew right from the beginning and from the games that we’ve watched and how we’d been playing that we knew we were in it and we had a chance,” he said. “Athens is a fantastic team, the coaches are brilliant and they don’t go 20-0 for nothing, but we believed that we could compete, which we did today. Unfortunately we got behind, but we came back, we persevered and we scored. It’s good stuff, I’m super proud of them.”

With just over 15 minutes left to play in regulation, Athens keeper Aaron Nufer made a diving save to preserve the 2-2 tie and help the game go to overtime and then, moments before the game-winning goal from Bankstahl, Nufer made a tremendous diving save with 8:20 left to play to once again keep Utica from scoring.

In the first half, Athens got out to a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick goal from senior midfielder Aaron Gebauer, but exactly four minutes later, Utica tied the game up when Brenizer drilled a perfect free kick around the Athens defenders and into the back of the net to make it 1-1.

“We’re fast and we’ve attacked the goal all year long,” said Athens head coach Todd Heugh. “It’s a scary thing to not get beaten because I’ve told the guys all year long that I’ve been waiting to lose, because that’s where you learn something about yourselves. But we didn’t and that was great and it’s unfortunate that we did today and we don’t get to play another day.”

Utica then took its first lead of the game with 17:09 left to play in the first half as Andrew Galczyk took a shot from the right side of the field and buried it into the left side of the net to give the Chieftains a 2-1 advantage.

But Athens managed to tie the game back up right before halftime as Gebauer sent in a corner kick that found the foot of senior forward Bryan Lawson who sent the ball into the back of the net with 3:32 left to play in the half to knot the game at 2-2.

Last Updated: 10/19/2013 6:01:15 PM EST

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