The Clarksburg faithful rose to its feet, gasping for air as a Coyotes forward drove a ball toward the open net. The patrons sat back down stunned a moment later, watching in disbelief after Wootton goalkeeper Jeremy Yeager — who had been out of position a moment earlier — fully extended and snatched a surefire goal out of the air late in the second half.
“We have a saying on the sideline when one of those plays happen,” Patriots Coach Doug Schuessler said. “Did we mention we have Yeager?”
Yeager made several sensational saves in the final moments of the match, but none was more uplifiting than that aerial show at the 13-minute mark of the second half, which preserved a 1-0 Wootton win in a hotly contested Maryland 4A West quarterfinal match.
The Patriots (7-6-3), who saw their roster depleted by graduation after winning the Maryland 4A State Championship last season, advanced to Thursday’s region semifinal against Magruder, which beat Gaithersburg, 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night.
Much of it was due to Yeager, who didn’t only make the play of the night on the near-post save — but was sacrificial in nature. He went for every “50-50” ball, and was knocked several times by the charging forwards of Clarksburg (7-4-2).
“As a team, this whole game we defended so hard. Went after every tackle so hard, went up for every 50-50 ball,” Yeager said. “And when you go for every ball, good things happen.”
Wootton forward Chan Park scored 80 seconds into the match, providing his second game-winner of the postseason after delivering an overtime goal to beat Northwest, 1-0, last week. That was all Wootton would need Tuesday, in what at times was every bit the 100-minute thriller these two teams played two weeks ago. “We’ve been talking about how even during the regular season, its just been a battle between us,” Park said. “I was just ready for it.”
Park pointed to the star on Wootton’s uniform after the game, which signifies last season’s state title. No other team, no other player in the area can wear that star because “we’re the only one’s who know how to win a state championship. That’s our motto. We carry that on our hearts.”
Yeager couldn’t physically carry the same star Tuesday, because he was decked out in an orange goalkeeper’s uniform. But he was every bit the keeper Tuesday that he was on last year’s state championship run, including nailbiting saves off direct kicks by Clarksburg at the 3-minute 20-second mark, as well with just 50 seconds to play.
“It’s been a long year. We’ve had some ups and some downs,” Yeager said. “We’re finally gelling, and it’s the perfect time.”