League-leading Rockets need seven PK’s to survive Hornets

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The Catholic Rockets may have clinched at least a tie for the 7A/6A-Central Conference[more] championship Thursday night but the Bryant Hornets made them earn it. After the two teams finished regulation play tied 1-1, they battled to the seventh penalty kick of their shootout before the Rockets produced the decisive goal and Bryant just missed off the crossbar.

“We had our chances,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Jason Hay. “I thought we really played well. We redeemed ourselves from Tuesday.”

On Tuesday, the Hornets were at home but fell 4-1 to Conway, their worst loss (by score) of the season.

But they still had a chance to stay in the race for the league title with a win over the Rockets only to be denied.

“I can deal with a loss when I think we played our guts out and everybody did what they could and it goes down the PK’s,” Hay said. “I can deal with that. I’m proud of them for the effort.

“We just need to keep it going, carry it on into Cabot on Friday,” he added.

Yes, the Hornets have to turn right around and play at Cabot, their third match in four days. They’ll wrap up the regular season on Monday, May 7, at home against North Little Rock.

“We’ve got to finish strong,” Hay said. “There’s still a chance for us to get a second seed and get a first-round bye. The worst we can do now is fourth but we want to finish on a good note.”

The Hornets had the lone goal of the first half on Thursday.

“We had a cross in from Chase Stuart that Bryce Denker put in,” Hay recounted.

That held until about midway through the second half when the Rockets tied it up.

In the shootout, Both teams were three for three initially. Forrest Fowler got the first one into the net then Bryce Denker followed suit then Alex Rowlan.

On the fourth attempt, the Rockets missed. A slip on Jesse Wolf’s attempt for the Hornets sent the shot high and off the crossbar so they continued.

The contest was at Burns Park, one of the few times Bryant has played this season on natural grass.

Catholic hit its fifth try and Jace Denker matched it for the Hornets. Josh Lowery countered a Rockets goal on the sixth round. On the seventh round, Bryant’s Pete Alverio hit the crossbar then Catholic got its to go, ending the marathon battle.

“It was tough,” Hay said. “The guys played hard. Justin Travis did a good job playing a lot of mid. Wolf and (Cory) Ballew came in up top. (Blake) Reed — we had some guys come in and get some minutes. It was so hot and with us having to play (Friday), we tried to save some people’s legs a little bit. And those guys came in and did well. Our depth helped us.”

The Hornets are now 12-5 overall and 7-5 in league play. The Class 7A State Tournament begins Thursday, May 10, at Fort Smith.

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