Free State junior Tony Libeer will remember the date, the opponent and probably even the time.
What he might never know, however, is what actually happened.
Thursday night at the Free State High soccer field, Libeer’s header at 7:11 in the first overtime lifted the Firebirds to a 3-2 victory over Olathe North.
The fact that it was the first goal for Libeer in more than 2 1⁄2 years of Free State soccer was only half of the improbable equation that led to victory. The other half came from the fact that, for much of the game, overtime looked like a pipe dream for the home team.
“It was a resilient win tonight,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said. “And I was extremely proud of the way the guys battled back and didn’t just fold up their tents when we were down. The unfortunate part for Olathe North is that they deserved to win the game.”
The Eagles, who entered the contest with just three victories, outplayed Free State for the first 67 minutes and took a 2-0 lead into the final 13 minutes.
North’s first goal came at the 18:41 mark of the first half when lazy Free State defense through the midfield led to an open shot for North’s Jorge Rivero, who ripped a ball through the hands of goalkeeper Elliott Johnson.
The Eagles made it 2-0 midway through the second half when Rivero flashed some fancy dribbling to possess the ball in front of the Free State bench and sent a cross to the far side of the field, where Uriel Jimenez took three touches and beat second-half keeper Jackson McClure to the lower-left side.
Down but not out, Free State cut the lead in half with 12:33 to play, when senior Daniel Chance converted a waist-high volley on a corner kick from Diego Gonzalez.
“Once we got that first goal, that gave us the momentum for the first time, and we just went from there,” Libeer said.
Free State (10-4) continued to send wave after wave of attacks toward the Olathe North net. Time after time, balls agonizingly bounced around the O-North box, but could not find the net.
Finally, at the two-minute mark, one final display of pinball wizardry took a fortuitous bounce for the Firebirds and led to another corner kick. This time, Chance delivered the assist, and Gonzalez scored the equalizer on a sweet header that slipped under the crossbar and inside the far post.
“We did all the things that a good team does in that situation,” Pendleton said. “We had that sort of spirited energy that you need to come back. But at the same time, we still made a lot of mistakes tonight, mistakes that we need to get corrected.”
The rush carried into overtime, which ended with Libeer’s goal off of another incredible flip throw-in from senior Tyler Smith.
Less than two minutes into OT, Smith’s throw soared toward the near post, where Libeer was waiting six yards in front of the goal and three yards off the near post. Although he can’t remember the exact way things unfolded in those frantic final moments — “I had no idea what was going on. I just tried to get a head on it and looked behind me and saw a jumbled mess of bodies,” he said — Libeer saw enough to soak up the feeling of the first goal of his high school career.
“I won’t ever forget this one,” he said.