MIAMI — For the second year in a row, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M men’s soccer team is heading to the Plains District tournament.
A penalty kick by Ryan McLaughlin with 4 seconds left in overtime gave the Norse a 3-2 win over Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa in the finals of the NJCAA Region II tournament at Red Robertson Field.
Unlike a year ago when the Norsemen had to go to Topeka. Kansas, this time they get to stay home.
Plans are for the tournament to be played this Thursday and Friday. Two games would be Thursday with the title game Friday afternoon. That would allow a couple-hours window before Miami High School’s regular-season finale with Grove that evening.
Joining NEO will be the winners of Regions V (Texas) and VI (Kansas).
Hill College won the Region V crown with a 2-0 victory over Western Texas College.
Cloud County (Kansas) Community College won the Region VI title 3-2 in a shootout with Cowley County.
The fourth team in the field will be Garden City (Kansas) Community College, which upset No.1 ranked Johnson County in the first round of the Region IV tournament.
“That is phenomenal. It feels really good,” Parrigon said. “We had a phenomenal sophomore group last year graduate and had to fill a lot of holes. We managed to do it with a really creative offense. That’s what carried us through all year long and got us to 11-4-2, so we are happy.”
It looked like the Norsemen and NOC were heading to overtime.
A penalty kick by Rojay Smith at 33:04 of the second half created a 2-2 tie.
Each team had several chances the rest of the way, but couldn’t convert.
The stalemate continued for another 9:56.
That’s when NEO freshman forward Casey Johnson was fouled in the box.
Norse coach John Parrigon opted to have McLaughlin take the penalty kick.
“Ryan normally is not our first guy we pick for a PK,” Parrigon said. “He’s not a finesse placement guy. That keeper (Brycen Reed) is so good, you have to have the power to get by him. We picked our big brute out of the back to come up and hammer one home … and he did it.”
McLaughlin went left with his shot. Reed reacted correctly, but he wasn’t quick enough and the ball went zipping by into the net.
“Casey, who is one of our quickest players, was coming across the top of the box, got nicked once and it was a call referees don’t like to make because it changes the game,” Parrigon said. “Then he (an NOC player) nicked him a second time and that was what tipped the decision.”
Northern had drawn first blood in the first two minutes on a screamer by Smith.
The Golden Norsemen got the equalizer with 13:36 until the half on a shot by freshman mid Hector Marin.
NEO grabbed its first lead in the 52nd minute on a shot by freshman forward Victor Arias that couldn’t be wrapped up by Reed. The ball bounced off the crossbar, took a crazy hop and went into the net.
Smith made it 2-2 with his penalty kick.
“I wanted it bad because I really felt offensively, we had the majority of the possessions, the majority of the offense,” Parrigon said. “It was just a matter of when it was going to go. Hats off to Reed. He’s one of the best we’ve seen this year. He made a lot of good chances look routine.”