It was a wild finish, but the Tigers were able to defeat the Spartans 4-3 thanks to Michael O'Donnel's goal 64 seconds into overtime

WAYNESVILLE — The Waynesville (1-0) boys soccer team had a dramatic finish to their season opener against the Battle Spartans (2-2), winning their game 4-3 in overtime thanks to a rebound goal by junior Michael O'Donnel 64 seconds into overtime.

At first, it appeared the ball to O'Donnel came from one of his teammates, but it was actually a ball that deflected off of Battle's goalkeeper.

“We tried to play it across, but they deflected it out, and it landed by him and he buried it,” Waynesville coach Mike Armstrong said. “It was a great goal.”

Indeed. And by a deserving player.

O'Donnel was quite the junior varsity player last year Armstrong said.

“He works hard,” Armstrong said. “That outside mid is a rough position. Those guys have to cover so much ground.

“[On his scoring play] he was helping us on defense, then he flew up that [left] side to get that ball as it bounced out and he buried it like he was supposed to.”

O'Donnel was asked after the game if he could've ever imagined after such a tightly played matchup that he, or any player for that matter, would score so quickly.

“Our coach wanted us to, but probably not,” O'Donnel said with a grin.

Both teams were doing a decent job of preventing shots on their respective goalkeepers until junior Caleb Rodriguez put a ball top shelf for the Tigers with 13:45 left in the half to take a first-half 1-0 lead.

Then, in the second half Waynesville took a 2-0 lead when junior Chase Holdon punched in a shot from inside the 18-yard box. The ball was hit so hard it went off the keeper's hands and still went in with 30:36 left in the game.

Following that goal, Spartan senior Adil Hamadto cut into the Tigers' lead with a goal with 10:41 left.

Armstrong said the team was letting up on defense, he thinks, because of lack of stamina.

“About 20 minutes to go in the second half, I think we hit the fitness wall,” Armstong said. “Then we kind of fell apart. We've been stuck inside for quite a few days, trying to make sure the heat didn't get anybody sick and keep everyone safe. I think that took a toll on us. You can't train inside like you should outside.”

Whatever it was, it continued with a let-up that allowed for a penalty inside the box that gave senior Omar Hayes a chance for a penalty kick.

Hayes took his mark with 10:41 left in the game, and kicked a ball low and to the right for a Battle goal, which tied the game up.

Waynesville goalie Jon Moore prevented disaster by tipping a shot over his goal three minutes later.

Shortly after, Battle was called for a penalty and the Tigers were awarded a free kick.

The ball was booted up and over the Spartans' “wall” and landed near junior Robert Osborn who quickly put it in with 5:18 left in the game.

The minutes ticked down and it seemed all but over as time slipped under two minutes to go.

That's when Hayes weaved his way deep into Waynesville territory with 1:38 remaining and tied the game up at three.

“It was really disappointing, we could've easily stopped it,” O'Donnel said. “But I'm glad we made up for it.”

Armstrong said Hayes was too shifty for the defense to have stopped on the best of days on his game-tying goal.

“He's got a lot of moves and he's incredibly fast,” Armstrong said. “We bit on his first move and he was able to get through us. You have to be patient on him and wait for him to make a mistake, but he didn't on [his two goals].”

The game went into overtime and even before O'Donnel's heroics, Moore fell onto a ball in his six-box before dishing the ball out to a teammate.

It was quite the dramatic experience for the Tigers' first game.

O'Donnel said it was also eye-opening.

“We definitely have to improve our fitness,” O'Donnel said. “We need to improve our talking, our movement off the ball and our passing. We can get better at everything.”

But, his coach said he was proud of the team's resolve.

“They sucked it up and finished it off,” Armstrong said. “Couldn't ask for a better finish.”

The Tigers will make the daunting drive to Joplin on Tuesday for the first Ozark Conference game.