It did not take long for Davenport Central freshman goalkeeper Damien Burtle to face a huge situation for his team.
Just five games into the season, the hopes for a Blue Devils' victory over rival Davenport Assumption during a penalty shootout on Tuesday night stood before him at St. Vincent Athletic Center.
Burtle came up big for his team, diving to his left and knocking away an attempt from the Knights' Augustine Rosas to preserve the 5-4 penalty shootout win. Central left with a huge 4-3 road win in the Mississippi Athletic Conference opener for both teams and also improved to 4-1 overall.
Burtle said it just came down to making the right decision on the PK attempts.
"It's hard, it's just guessing which side you are going to go to," Burtle said. "You don't know what the kicker is going to do but on that last one, I kind of thought he was going that way. Once (the ball) hit my hands, I thought 'We did it.' It's a great win."
Central coach Sean Harkness had faith in his goalkeeper and his team in a hard-fought game that saw the lead change hands three times and saw numerous fouls and four yellow cards between the two squads.
"No player on either team has anything left to give, everybody just left it out there," Harkness said. "Even though it was tense game, a great game between two rivals and in the end there was nothing left but respect."
Harkness added that Burtle actually might give his opponents a false sense of security before something like a PK shootout really makes things matter. Burtle stands over 6-feet fall but doesn't necessarily appear that way all the time.
"When he plays he kind of hangs down a little bit but when he stands upright and spreads out (his arms), he can make himself look really big in net," Harkness said. "I told him there is not pressure on you to win this game, all you have to do is stop one penalty and our guys will do the rest."
Luke Hummel, Bobby Nikolopoulos, Joey Lantzky and Dario Gonzalez hit the first four PKs for the Blue Devils while Eddie Gonzalez put home Central's fifth and game-winning penalty. Knights keeper Gaige Ash did stop Alex McCleland's attempt.
For the Knights, Joe Field, Sam Moore, Ben Beutel and Trent Fitzpatrick found the back of the net in the shootout. Jon Bassier hit the top of the crossbar with his penalty attempt.
Although Bassier did have a great assist to John Gorzney in the 65th minute to help the Knights (2-2 overall) tie the game at 3-3 after trailing for good chunk of the second half. Beutel had the other two goals for the home team and Rosas also contributed an assist.
When Beutel scored in the 48th minute to put Assumption up 2-1, Central took just 45 seconds to retake the lead. Nikolopoulos played two beautiful long passes down the middle of the field to hit, first, Dario Gonzalez in stride to tie the game at 2-2.
Then just seconds later, Nikolopoulos found Jacob Green sprinting down the field with a 30-yard pass that Green was able to get past Ash and suddenly give the visitors a 3-2 edge.
Harkness marveled at just how perfect both assists were from his sophomore forward.
"You could not weight the pass better than he did. They were perfect passes, it was like a (video game) FIFA pass," Harkness said.
Beutel had put Assumption up 1-0 just 56 seconds into the game after taking advantage of a Central turnover but Eddie Gonzalez equalized for the Blue Devils in the 20th minute off a scramble from a corner kick just 15 yards in front of the goal.
Things don't get any easier for Assumption as the Knights somehow have to recover and travel to Bettendorf for a game on Thursday.
"It was good match-up and the momentum swings back-and-forth," Knights coach Greg Zeller said. "It's tough to go to PKs after 100 minutes but that's what it is. We've had close games with them and I didn't expect anything less tonight."