Colonels Prevail Against Canes in Penalty Shootout


On Friday, March 4 the Cass Colonel Soccer Team beat the Cartersville Hurricanes in an intense penalty shootout. This win improved the Colonel’s record to (7-3-1) overall and (1-1) in region-play.

During the first half, the Hurricanes had a strong midfield presence and maintained possession for the majority of the half. Despite the fact, the Canes were restrained from scoring due to a valiant effort from the Colonel’s defense. In one instance, two players battled it out resulting in a header that pushed the ball just far enough out of the way to hit the crossbar, ensuring the safety of Cass’s goal

Cass sophomore Christian Villela celebrating with his teammates after scoring the goal that put the Colonels ahead.

Coming into the second half, the Colonels took advantage of the Canes’ missed opportunities and broke the deadlock. As Cartersville threatened the goal, 6′ 6” junior goalkeeper Tyler Wallentine intercepted and passed the ball on to sophomore Christian Viella. Christian rushed towards the Canes’ goal along with sophomore Camden Hillhouse who set up Christian beautifully for a precise shot into the bottom left corner. This quick counter-attack from the Colonels sent the Doug Cochran Stadium into pandemonium while the away team sat stunned.

Cartersville quickly recovered, however, and they collected themselves, responding with another goal themselves when Cartersville senior Marvel Velasquez volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner of the Cass goal.

The score was tied 1-1 and the game had finally sparked into life. Opportunities to score were everywhere on the field, but neither team managed to surpass the other, leaving fans at the edge of their seats. A crucial opportunity for the Colonels came in the last 4 minutes of the game when Villela weaved through the whole Canes defense and sent a perfect cross to senior Juan Pajarito. Unfortunately, Juan failed to convert in front of the goal.

“It was a gimme,” said Colonel head coach Justin Fitzgerald to Daily Tribune. “All he had to do was smash it in.”

With that golden opportunity missed, time running up, and both teams not backing down, the game stretched into overtime. The two periods of overtime continued the pattern of the second half with both teams going back and forth down the field, but unable to seize a winning goal. The final buzzer went off and overtime transitioned to a penalty shootout. The team who scored the most penalties out of 5 chances each would be the winner.

Both teams lined up on the 50-yard line for the penalty shootout.

The Canes were first to shoot and freshman Melvin Velasquez calmly placed his penalty in the bottom left corner. (0-1)

Cass senior Carlos Morales responded confidently and smashed the ball into the top right corner to even the score. (1-1)

Still playing safe, Cartersville senior Alex Rios planted the ball into the bottom left corner again to retake the lead. (1-2)

Villela, who was on fire the whole night, struck the ball with ferocity, but the shot went flying over the crossbar. The Colonels’ hopes were slowly slipping away. (1-2)

The pressure of taking the lead got to Cartersville junior Antonio Garcia as his shot was taken with poor form and hit the football crossbar. (1-2)

The Colonels’ spirits were lifted back up as they had a chance to make it an even game again. Senior Jose Rodriguez took the missed opportunity by the Canes and, without any doubt, aimed his penalty straight down the middle. The goalkeeper tapped the ball, but couldn’t hold it from crossing into the goal. (2-2)

Next up for the Canes was junior Daniel Abeja, who was expected to drill his penalty in due to his stellar skills and experience. Colonel Head Coach Justin Fitzgerald even turned away because he didn’t want to see the penalty, but turned around when an avalanche of Colonel celebrations sounded from behind. Wallentine read Abeja’s penalty like a book and made a brilliant save, giving the Colonels a chance to take the lead. (2-2)

Sophomore Camden Hillhouse was up next for the Colonels and calmly scored with a beautiful curving shot into the left corner of the goal. (3-2)

Marvel Velasquez, the last shooter for the Canes, had to score his penalty to keep them in the shootout. He was able to shake the pressure off his shoulders and thumped his penalty into the top left corner. (3-3)

Pajarito was up next as the final shooter for the Colonels. He missed a golden opportunity in normal regulation to seal the game but this was his chance to finish it for good. He was confident as his teammates and fans cheered him on.

“After missing the potential game-winning goal, I felt disappointed in myself. I had it in my grasp to seal the game and then choked. I felt like I lost the game for my team and let them down,” said Pajarito. “Once overtime was over and we went into PK’s, I knew it had to be me to score the winning penalty.”

Senior Juan Pajarito jumping in jubilation with senior Ricky Le after scoring the winning penalty.

Pajarito placed the ball on the penalty spot, took 5 steps back and the whole stadium fell silent, awaiting the shot that could decisively end the Canes. He took a deep breath, approached the ball, and propelled it straight down the middle leaving the keeper no time to react. (4-3)

The crowd went wild and the players stampeded towards Pajarito who celebrated in style, performing “The Griddy.”

The Canes were stunned with their heads stooped in dismay. The team they talked down to, the team they said had no chance of beating them, the team they thought they would dispatch in a heartbeat, had beaten them in penalties.

The players in blue shed tears of joy while the players in purple only shed tears of disappointment.

When asked what went through his mind while taking the penalty, Pajarito responded with, “I had full confidence in myself and didn’t let the previous play define my next one.  When I saw the ball hit the back of the net, I turned around and a wave of pure joy hit me as I saw my team -no, my family- who fought so hard and played their hearts out running towards me. There was pure happiness in their eyes and the biggest smiles on their faces. In the corner of my eyes, I could see the fans jumping and cheering for us. The feeling will be unforgettable and is definitely one for the books.”

Last year, the Colonels and Canes went head-to-head in a very hard-fought game, but the Colonel’s hearts were broken when they conceded late in the second half at a loss of 3-2. This year, they exacted their revenge and unraveled the Hurricane.

“We graduated 9-10 starters from last year’s team, so for these young kids, it’s a really big confidence boost for us, going forward as a program,” said Fitzgerald. “This win, I think, is only going to propel this group even farther.”

This win was very emotional for the Colonels because it was the team’s first time to defeat the once-dominant force of Cartersville.

To win in a penalty shootout was a very special moment for the senior group specifically, having lost many games in overtime or to penalty shootouts in prior years.

“It felt satisfying. We have been disappointed so many times in the past. This felt really redeeming,” says Senior Andrew Nguyen. “… and to do it against Cartersville just makes it 10 times better.”

The team poses with “W’s” on their hands to capture the moment after beating their rivals.