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6A Boys Soccer: Church's big saves help Panthers reach title game

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Photographs by NWA Democrat-Gazette/GRAHAM THOMAS

Siloam Springs players congratulate goalkeeper Wyatt Church on Saturday after he made two saves in the penalty kick session.

SILOAM SPRINGS -- Wyatt Church came up big for Siloam Springs, and the Panthers are heading back to the Class 6A state championship game.

Church, a sophomore goalkeeper for the Panthers, made two saves in the penalty kick session, and Siloam Springs defeated Little Rock Hall 1-1 (3-1 PKs) to advance to this week's state title game.

Church said he prefers to have a scouting report on the opposition going in, but there wasn't time to gather one on the Warriors prior to the game.

He came up big for the Panthers regardless.

"I just kind of had to go where I thought they would go and fortunately it worked out for me," said Church. "It feels pretty good. The guys were happy. I'm not trying to brag but a lot of them said I helped win the game, and it feels like that. It's a really good feeling. It's one of the best feelings honestly."

Siloam Springs will play Mountain Home in the 6A title game. Mountain Home knocked off Russellville 4-2 in PKs in the other semifinal.

Christian Marroquin, Eli Jackson and Jose Serrano converted their penalty kicks for the Panthers (20-5-1), who set a school record for wins in a season.

Church allowed Hall's first shooter, Nabeel Alwan, to score, but made a save on the second shooter, Leonard Velasquez, and Hall's third shot by Lester Teletor hit the left post.

Church made a save diving to his left on Hall's fourth shot by Tony Carmona, and Serrano converted Siloam Springs' fifth shot for the game-winner.

"It's a running joke at my house: I'm not very good at PKs when it comes to a coach," said Siloam Springs head coach Brent Crenshaw. "I tried to do our best and put our best five shooters out there.

"It's 50/50 (for the goalkeeper). It really is. He's got to guess one way or the other and just go for it. I've heard of players being able to read hips and then dive. It's so fast you can't do it. You've got to pick a side and just go."

Crenshaw credited Church with working with volunteer coach Hannah Poor, a former Siloam Springs all-state goalkeeper and current JBU player.

"He picked the right side," Crenshaw said. "We didn't have any film on them. We didn't know which way they went. It was all on him. So proud of him and so happy for him."

Before the penalty kicks, the teams played to a 1-1 tie for 100 minutes -- two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtimes.

Marroquin scored the Panthers' regulation goal in the first half, and Hall's Yarly Giron scored in the second half on an open goal to tie the match. Hall keeper Carlos Fabian also made two saves in the penalty kick session.

"One of the best teams in the state in 6A," Siloam Springs head coach Brent Crenshaw said of Hall.

Mountain Home 1, Russellville 1 (4-2 PKs)

The Bombers outshot Russellville 4-2 in penalty kicks to keep their undefeated season alive.

Mountain Home's Corey Queen, Jason Standridge, Ewan Platt and Xaco Baonza all converted their penalty kicks, while goalkeeper Spencer Foster made one save in the period.

Both teams made their first kick, and Spencer saved the second one to give Mountain Home (18-0) a one-goal advantage.

Both sides converted their third kicks, but Russellville (21-3-2) missed its fourth before Baonza converted for the victory.

It will be Mountain Home's fifth appearance in the state championship game, but the Bombers are still chasing their first title.

Sports on 05/14/2017

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