Owen soccer reaches first state championship with dramatic 5-4 golden-goal win

James Crabtree-Hannigan
Asheville Citizen Times

BLACK MOUNTAIN — Davis Kendall wasn't sure why the entire Owen soccer bench was there to meet him on the sideline as he landed from a triumphant midair fist pump.

He knew he'd just scored his fourth goal of Tuesday's 2A regional final and 49th of the season — a lasered penalty kick into the top of the net — but what the Warhorse star hadn't realized, at least not yet, was that it was golden.

The madness of the celebration, though, was a dead giveaway: Kendall had just sent Owen to the state championship.

The Warhorses saw four leads disappear in regulation Tuesday, but Lincoln Charter wouldn't have any opportunity to answer Kendall's 105th-minute goal, which secured a 5-4 double-overtime win and the first state title berth in program history.

"It's a feeling I've never felt before," Owen defender AJ Logan said. "The adrenaline rush you get knowing you're ... part of a unique opportunity. It's just something that nothing can compare to."

Twice in the final 12 minutes of regulation, the No. 10 Warhorses (21-2-1) thought they were on the brink of having that feeling and securing a spot in this weekend's state championship against the winner of Manteo and Clinton's Wednesday East regional.

Another Kendall penalty kick conversion put the Warhorses up 3-2 in the 68th minute, only for the No. 17 Eagles (13-10-3) to equalize in the 74th minute. An Owen corner kick deflected in off a Lincoln Charter defender for a 4-3 lead just over a minute later, but Lincoln Charter again answered, drawing back even in the 77th minute.

"We just play our game, and we know that we're a really good team," midfielder Elijah Caro said. "Our mindset is to just keep on working hard and never give up. ... If we just play our game, we know we can get through it."

GOAL!!!Goal-scoring machine Davis Kendall powering Owen soccer's regional final run

FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PICKS:WNC football Round 3 predictions: Reynolds, West Henderson runs continue, Cherokee Co. rematch

POLK COACH RETIRING:Polk County football coach Bruce Ollis says he will retire after 2022-23 academic year

The flurry of late activity, Owen coach Trei Morrison said, was an indication that the enormity of the moment was getting to his team.

So, in the huddle before overtime, the coach turned the volume up from his usual demeanor and reminded the players that they're a lot younger than him, so they could play "another 100 minutes" if they needed.

"Day one, as soon as I walked into the gym with them, we said we were going to have intensity from the first whistle to the last whistle," Morrison said. "And that's what won us the game tonight."

Neither team broke through in the first 20 minutes of overtime, and the third nearly reached its end with the teams deadlocked, too, until Warhorse defender Cole Roy skied a ball upfield.

Everybody on the field, including Owen forward Owen Lollis, looked to the assistant referee to see whether Lincoln Charter's offside trap had been successful.

When the flag stayed down, Lollis was the first to react. The sophomore sprinted to meet the ball at the top of the box, beating goalkeeper Anthony Mele to it and then getting taken out by him to draw a penalty kick.

Owen’s Davis Kendall controls the ball in the playoff game against Lincoln Charter November 15, 2022.

Kendall, who'd already tallied his third hat trick of the playoffs and ninth of the season, stepped up to take it.

"When we've all maybe lost hope, leaned back, there's Davis again, time and time again this season," Logan said. "It's just phenomenal to play with him."

But even though Kendall's performance this season has convinced Logan he's the "best sophomore striker in the country," the school record holder for goals in a season felt he needed a little help from above to add one more.

"I was praying, if I'm being honest," Kendall said. "I was just like, 'God, don't let me down.' "

In Morrison's mind, though, there was no force earthly, spiritual or otherwise that would be extending the game into a 106th minute.

"[Owen defender Liam Gildner] was trying to quiet the stands, but I was like, 'No. Davis can handle the noise. Let's see if they can,'" Morrison said. "One-hundred percent confidence in that kid. ... I've seen him bury those 1,000 times."

Most of those, though, came during Morrison's time as a club coach, before he took over Owen a few games into this season.

Those environments rarely draw the type of crowd that was on hand Tuesday, the one that was loud enough that Morrison struggled at times to communicate to his team from the sideline.

"It feels amazing just to be a part of the Swannanoa, Black Mountain community, the support we had from even the Asheville soccer community," Morrison said. "It's just amazing."

Nor do they elicit the type of celebration that kicked off once Kendall had fired his shot past the goalkeeper, bringing tears of joy to the eyes of some of the players who had just made history and are one game away from making even more.

"[Morrison] always reminds us: Nobody's worked harder than us," Kendall said. "We deserve to be here. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. But we're here, so we should make the most of it."