Johnny Mills was the Soldotna High School boys soccer team's Johnny on the spot in the Region III Soccer Championships.
A day after scoring a clutch goal late in overtime to send the Stars to a penalty kick shootout against Kenai, Mills netted the only goal of the match Saturday against Colony, propelling the Stars to a 1-0 win and the region tournament championship at Skyview High School.
"It feels great," said Soldotna's Anthony Murray. "All the pain goes away when you win the region."
Mills' goal came with 11 minutes left in the match. Jason Dunagan played a ball through the middle for Mills to run on to, and Mills placed a low, hard shot past the Colony keeper.
Colony's attack, meanwhile, generated some excellent scoring opportunities, but the Knights hit a post in the first half, the crossbar in the second and Soldotna goalkeeper Adam Kiffmeyer proved up to the challenge of stopping the rest of Colony's bids.
"We just locked horns the whole time," said Soldotna's Iver Kohler. "We were so evenly matched. You've got to credit whoever drew up the brackets -- that's exactly how a championship match should be played."
Actually, the brackets were determined by regular-season standings, but in the wide-open boys bracket, two of the three traditionally strong Valley teams -- Wasilla and Palmer -- were knocked out of contention in the first round of play.
The Stars eliminated the Warriors Friday morning, then relegated Kenai to the third-place match after winning Friday night's marathon semifinal.
Soldotna's Adam Kiffmeyer makes a save in front of teammate Todd Ghormley and Colony's Michael Benson during the second half of the Region III Soccer Championships' first place game Saturday.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
While both teams had some excellent scoring opportunities through the first half, Colony had the better of the chances. Kiffmeyer made a difficult save on a direct kick from just outside his penalty area in the 23rd minute, and relied on his goalpost to make a save for him in the 37th minute on a Colony cross that was deflected toward the goal. A Soldotna defender was just able to clear the ball away when Kiffmeyer couldn't get his hands on it.
Colony applied the pressure in the closing five minutes of the first half, then had a shot bounce off the top of the crossbar 16 minutes into the second half.
"We just knew we had to keep them contained, especially after Johnny got that goal," Kohler said. "They really poured it on after that, but that's how we play. We don't score a lot, but we don't let a lot by."
Kiffmeyer was called on to make a couple more big saves in the final minutes, including a scrambling save with just seconds left in the match.
"You can't beat that. They played very, very well," Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said of his side. "We knew we needed to rotate our guys in more than in the first two games (of the tournament). The heat, and three games in two days, wore some of the guys out, but they found a way to make it happen."
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