There’s a reason they’re called insurance policies.
Junior Jaggar Brooker’s goal midway through the second half gave the Olentangy Liberty boys soccer team a two-goal lead at the time.
It turned out to be the game-winner in the Patriots’ 2-1 win over Hilliard Darby in a Division I district semifinal Wednesday night in Powell.
“We knew they were going to give us a fight,” Liberty coach Marc D’Auteuil said. “I don’t know if we played as well as maybe we could. Maybe it was partly due to them. But, I thought we grinded. Sometimes in the tournament you don’t always play your best, but you find ways to win and move on and that’s all that matters.”
Luke Sensky sent a free kick from the left side that was deflected by a Darby defender to Brooker, who tapped it in from the left post to give top-seeded Liberty a 2-0 lead with 18:04 remaining.
“I was posted up on their center-back,” Brooker said. “The ball came across right in front of me, but I let it go and it deflected off of someone and I was right there to put it away.”
“I think we’ve seen as much growth out of (Brooker) this year than anybody,” D’Auteuil said. “Last year, he was a scared little sophomore and now he’s one of our key players. He was able to put that (ball) away in that moment. Sometimes those moments are too big for kids, and it wasn’t for him.”
The Patriots were locked in a scoreless tie until Ash Rajmohan clubbed in a ball from a scrum in front with 27:27 left in the game. Rajmohan had the first shot at it, but it was blocked by the Darby defense.
Nathan Rothert followed, but it was again blocked. Then Rajmohan followed – squeezing it through the defense with enough on it to get across the line.
Brooker’s goal seemed to put the game away at the time. But, Darby’s Daniel Djelmis sent a free kick on goal from close to midfield that was stopped by Liberty goalkeeper Theran Handlon initially.
But, Trevor Burke tapped in the rebound to get the 12th-seeded Panthers on the board with 4:45 left and Liberty held on from there.
“There’s certainly things that we need to shore up,” D’Auteuil said. “I’m not happy about letting up a goal with four minutes left. We were in complete control of the game. But, at the same time, we were able to finish the game out.”
Handlon finished with five saves.
The Patriots (15-2) are headed back to the district final for the second straight year and 10th time in school history. They seek their first title since 2014, which was the fourth of four straight state final four appearances.
“Last year was pretty rough,” Brooker said. “I think we’re a lot more prepared this year. I think we can go pretty far.”
Liberty faces a familiar foe in the championship game in eighth-seeded Westerville Central Saturday at a site and time to be determined. The Patriots own a 2-0 win over their OCC-Buckeye foe this season.
Brian Watkins stopped seven shots for the Panthers (9-6-3).
Olentangy Berlin 1, Columbus Academy 0, SO
Bears goalie Connor Sexton didn’t allow anything into the net all game long — a game which included regulation, two sudden death overtime periods and a penalty shootout — to lift seventh-seeded Berlin to a win over host and second-seeded Columbus Academy in a Division II district semifinal Wednesday in Columbus.
The game was scoreless through regulation and, after the two 15 minute extra sessions failed to produce a winner, the Bears scored on each of their first three penalty shots in the shootout. Dominic Antronica, Luke Eisenhower and Kyle Rinehart had the goals.
The win sets up a district championship showdown with third-seeded Bexley Saturday at a site and time to be announced.
Olentangy 3, Thomas Worthington 2, OT
After the teams traded goals in regulation, the sixth-seeded Braves hammered home the overtime tally that mattered the most to survive and advance in a Division I district semifinal against visiting Thomas Worthington Wednesday in Lewis Center.
Christian Bowens had a pair of goals in the win, including the game-winner, while Drew Clement had the other.
Next up, Olentangy will take on fourth-seeded Pickerington North in Saturday’s district final at a time and site to be announced.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.