By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — David Gardner and his teammates on the Middle Township High School boys soccer team were incredulous after their shouts for a penalty kick were waved off by the officials following a clumsy challenge that sent Gardner to the pitch a yard inside the penalty box in extra time against Oakcrest Monday afternoon.
Less than a minute later, the Panthers were shouting for a different reason.
Gardner got his foot on a loose ball in the box following a cross by Brendon Bertha and knocked it through the Falcon defense late in the second period of extra time to give Middle a 1-0 win.
It was a deserved result for Middle (3-2), which created the better of the chances in the final 10 minutes of regulation and both extra periods after the teams traded control of the match for the first 70 minutes.
Late in regulation, Vince Wilson tested Oakcrest keeper Matt Boakes from 25 yards and, later, with just seconds remaining, Tyler Rulon’s header off a corner kick narrowly missed the left post.
In the first period of extra time, Eddie Proud got his head on a corner kick cross only to see that effort also go wide. And Oscar Sanchez’s perfectly weighted ball two minutes later sprung Gardner, only to have Boakes come off his line and tip the shot from 15 yards wide of the right post.
Then, in the second period of extra time, Bartha’s glancing header off a corner kick made it through a group of players in the box and bounced wide of the far post.
Middle’s players may have thought they’d never get a winner after not being awarded a penalty kick after Gardner was sent to the turf from behind after beating a pair of defenders into the box.
But less than 30 seconds later, Bartha sent a high ball into the box and Sanchez bothered Boakes enough that the Falcon keeper couldn’t handle the ball, Gardner calmly sending the ball past all challengers and into the net for the winner.
Braiden Scarpa made 10 saves for the shutout in goal.