FORT CAMPBELL — Tate Burris was in disbelief when he saw his miracle shot hit the back of the net and then turned around the see his Madisonville-North Hopkins teammates sprinting toward him to celebrate the season-saving goal.
Amazingly, that wasn't even the biggest celebration for the Maroons in Wednesday's 2nd Region Tournament semifinal thriller at Fryar Stadium.
Burris' goal on a picture-perfect assist from Cade Cunningham sent the game against heavily favored Hopkinsville into overtime, where the Maroons eventually won 3-2 in penalty kicks to advance to today's region championship game against Henderson County.
The Maroons piled on Burris after his stunning game-tying goal with 10 seconds left in regulation and then partied even harder after Maroon goalkeeper Will Sanderson dove to his right for a victory-clinching save on a penalty kick from Hopkinsville's Aaron Shaw.
Hopkinsville had won 18 straight games, defeated North 7-0 earlier in the season and had outscored opponents 140-17 this year — but instead the Maroons, who were riding momentum from a penalty kick victory in the 7th District Tournament championship game against Caldwell County, are one win away from a state tournament appearance.
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"I think what just happened is going to blow a lot of people's minds," North coach Andrew Self said. "They were absolutely the favorites coming in. But like I told the guys before today, every game we are going to have a game plan. And if we buy into it we can do some special things."
Burris scored three minutes into the second half on an assist from Hayden Space to give the Maroons a 1-0 lead, but then two rocket kicks from Hopkinsville's Tyler Aldridge in the 50th and 65th minutes put the Tigers back on top.
North had few chances for the equalizer in the final 15 minutes but got a final opportunity in the closing seconds when Cunningham drove down the left side of the field and crossed the ball to the far post to Burris, who scored with 10 seconds left in regulation.
"Cade put the ball on the money, and it was hard to miss," Burris said. "Really I just slung my foot at it. I saw the ball and saw the open net and went for it. I was in disbelief. I thought it was all over, but then everybody was trying to tackle me. It was crazy."
Self said he couldn't have picked a better Maroon to play hero in the team's biggest win of the season.
"It's so uplifting for Tate because he has had an up-and-down season," Self said. "He was sick earlier in the season and lost his starting position, and he's been working his tail off to get it back.
"And when he hit that shot, I felt like I was a teenager again, jumping up and down and screaming and hugging everybody. I'm still speechless almost."
Neither team scored in a sudden death 10-minute overtime session, which set up another penalty kick scenario for the Maroons.
In the shootout against Caldwell County the Maroons hit all four of their shots and watched as Sanderson blocked 2-of-3 kicks to claim the district championship victory.
They were just as dominant on Wednesday.
"We have practiced them for the last week," Self said. "At the end of every practice session I pull six guys who I feel like will be the best PK shooters, and I tell them to get a routine that works for them and master it. I tell them to stick to that routine and trust it."
Noah Cunningham, Nick Ashby, Space and Burris hit North's first four penalty kicks against Hopkinsville goalkeeper Ricky Gillespie, and Sanderson blocked two of the Tigers' first four shots to clinch the win.
Sanderson, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, has now blocked 4-of-7 penalty kicks in the past week.
"All I do is get up on the line, breathe and try to focus," Sanderson said. "PKs are all about choosing a side and reading the person who is kicking the ball."
Today's championship game begins at 6:30 p.m. at Fryar Stadium. Henderson County, which defeated Caldwell County 6-0 in Wednesday's second regional semifinal, beat North 4-1 in the regular season. The Maroons enter the matchup on a five-game winning streak.