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PRESS PHOTO BY BOB FORD Northwestern's Brandon Ettl controls the ball during the District 11 semifinals. PRESS PHOTO BY BOB FORD Northwestern's Brandon Ettl controls the ball during the District 11 semifinals.

Boys soccer season ends in district semifinal

Thursday, October 31, 2013 by TJ ENGLE tengle@tnonline.com in HS Sports

For the first 50 minutes of play, Northwestern just couldn't gain any momentum against Salisbury in Tuesday night's District 11 Class AA boys soccer semifinal game.

After the Tigers closed a two-goal deficit in the second half, the tide seemed to be turning their way.

But with time running out, Salisbury got the game-winning goal on Danny Walters' free kick to win 3-2 and advance to Thursday's title game against Blue Mountain.

"Unfortunately, it was a questionable call to set up the kick," said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker, who coached the team to its first district title game appearance since 2006. "You've got to tip your hat. The kid made a heck of a shot. There was nothing anyone could do about that shot. I don't care who was in net. It's going in."

With 1:02 left in the game, the Falcons were awarded a free kick from about 25 yards out.

With little hesitation, Salisbury's Danny Walters placed the ball over a defensive wall with his left food. It ricochetted off the top bar and directly into the back of Northwestern's net to lift Salisbury, the tournament's No. 4 seed, to a 3-2 victory over Northwestern, the tournament's No. 1 seed.

Salisbury opened it's two-goal lead when Connor Wagner, an All Colonial League first team selection, scored the game's lone first-half goal with 28:38 left before half. The junior forward added his second goal with 29:42 left in the contest.

Moments later, Hunsicker decided to take a chance and switch things up a bit on the attack.

The Tigers' Brandon Herb capitalized on the move, taking in a perfect pass from Cody Gangaware to make it a 2-1 game with 27:19 left to go in the game.

Six minutes, 13-seconds later, Brandon Ettl and Kyle Willis connected for the Tigers' second goal. Willis sent a perfect cross just in front of Ettl, who got his head on the ball and put it in the goal to knot things up with 21:06 left in the game.

"We kind to had to roll the dice," Hunsicker said. "We changed our formation a little bit by pushing Brandon Herb up top to give us a little more of an offensive attack and he was the difference maker there.

"It's just one of those things you live by it and you die by it. Maybe it was the wrong call moving him back after we tied it when we had the momentum or what not.

"I think it was the smart decision any coach would make. It was a heck of an effort from our boys to gut it out. It's easy to hang your head when your down 2-0 and just give up, but they didn't do that."

The Tigers got off five of the game's last eight shots and 10 of their 18 shots in the second, it was the one by a Walters himself that spoiled Northwestern's hopes for its first boys soccer district title since 2004.

Hunsicker won't let his Tigers forget the things they accomplished along the way to that point of heartbreak.

"It just didn't fall in our favor," Hunsicker said. "We had a heck of a run this year. We ran off 16 straight, which I believe is a school record. We won the league for the first time in a long time.

"The chips just didn't fall in our favor tonight. It's tough going out as the one seed, obviously, before you get to the championship, but we had a great run this year.

"It's a little bit short of our ultimate goal this year, but they have a lot to be proud for with all the accomplishments this year."