Zack Batchelder will hopefully live a long and fruitful life with fun, adventure and frivolity. But in his life, no matter how full, my bet is that he will never, ever forget the goal he scored Thursday night.
Batchelder, the first player off of the bench all season for the No. 2 Montgomery boys soccer team, was on the field in the final seconds of the 15-minute golden goal overtime period against No. 6 Burlingame in the NorCal Division I regional semifinal contest when he put the game away with a jaw-dropping volley.
With the OT clock frozen at two minutes, meaning the referee could blow his whistle to end the game at any time and send it to penalties, Montgomery senior Andres Mondragon sent a long pass from the left flank to Batchelder, who was streaking into the box.
“He hit a perfect ball to me,” Batchelder said. “I hit it with my head up into the air, I saw it drop to my feet and I just hit it one time.”
Pandomonium. With that strike, Batchelder sealed Montgomery’s 3-2 win to send the Vikings to the first-ever NorCal regional soccer final and very likely re-arranged any list he had of personal all-time greatest moments.
“It’s hard to describe,” Batchelder said of what happened after the ball hit the back of the net. “I couldn’t really see anybody; everybody was jumping up and down.”
Vikings coach Jon Schwan crouched and held his head as his team danced in jubilation in the corner of the field.
“We needed someone to do something special,” Schwan said. “We got a lot of great players on this team, a lot of great seniors. But tonight it was all about a sophomore. It was all about Zack Batchelder, who stepped up on a ball in and had an amazing touch, was able to turn and just rifle a shot and the keeper didn’t really stand a chance on that.”
If words aren’t accurately painting a picture, try this: Google “Mario Gotze Germany versus Argentina 2014 World Cup.” The stadium might look different, but the finish looked pretty darned similar.
If Batchelder was an unlikely hero Thursday night, it was kind of an unlikely 95 minutes of soccer for the Vikings.
First off, the Vikings were down 1-0 within 90 seconds after Burlingame was given a free kick deep in Montgomery territory. The shot was cleared but landed at the feet of a Warrior, who sent a screamer into the back of the net.
“That was a hell of a strike by that kid,” Schwan said. “You got to tip your hat on a shot like that.”
But the Vikings, a team that has run up a 23-2-1 record while collecting their second consecutive North Bay League title as well as the Division 2 North Coast Section title, did not fold. They fought and created multiple chances and tested a very solid Burlingame goalkeeper in Alessandro Franco.
With 24 minutes to play in the first half, senior captain Carson Wyatt tied the game at 1 after a Burlingame defender misplayed a Viking cross and the ball landed at Wyatt’s feet. He slotted it home to tie it up.