BENNINGTON — The 2021 John James championship will go down in history as the ‘Spinelli slip’ game.
Brattleboro and Burr and Burton battled for 80 minutes of regulation play to a 1-1 draw. Two 10-minute overtime periods couldn’t decide a winner, either.
That brought the game to a penalty kick shootout. Both teams scored on four out of five PK chances, as the Bulldogs and Colonels simply refused to lose.
To determine a winner, the next PK score would crown the champion.
Brattleboro’s Ryder Sullivan had an opportunity at the game winner. Sullivan stepped inside the box, placing the ball as BBA keeper Will Morell stood protecting the net.
Once the whistle blew, Sullivan slipped on the grass as he ran to strike the ball. The Colonels forward hit the ball as he fell, which harmlessly traveled just a few feet.
Now, the games fate hinged on the right foot of Bulldog senior Judd Gourley.
Gourley stepped inside the box and calmly hit the game winner with a strike to the right side of the net, just passed the outstretched hands of Colonels keeper Paul McGillion.
After 100 minutes of play, and six penalty kicks for each side, Gourley called game.
The Bulldog senior had complete confidence in his ability to put the ball in the back of the net in that moment.
“I just knew that I was gonna do it,” Gourley said. “I just kicked it where I wanted it to go and I knew it was gonna go in.”
Morell played a crucial role in getting the Bulldogs to that postion in the first place. The senior keeper entered the game in the 15th minute of the first half after starting goalie Emmett Edwards collidied with a Brattleboro player. Edwards was shaken up on the play, forcing Morell into the contest.
Brattleboro held a 1-0 lead at that point in the game. Morell saved all eight of his shots that came his way in regulation. Same with the four that were sent his way during the two overtime periods.
Morell honed in on his job as soon as his number was called.
“Just try to keep it out of the back of the net,” Morell said.
That’s exactly what he did. A sudden spark of energy once play resumed following Edwards’ injury quickly paid off with a Bulldog score.
Carson Beavin, who was named the John James Tournament offensive MVP, scored late in the first half, evening the game at 1-1. Beavin said the team played for Edwards.
“We saw Emmett go down and as soon as it happened, we knew we had to just win it for Emmett,” Beavin said.
Brattleboro’s lone score in regulation came off the foot of freshman Charlie Kinnersly, who tapped in a rebound at the 30 minute mark of the first half.
Penalty kicks offered an intense atmosphere. Burr and Burton won the coin toss and decided to kick second. Brattleboro’s Magnus vonKrusenstiern started the shootout with a score to the right side of the net. That was the first of six straight succesful PK attempts between the two teams.
With the shootout tied 3-3, Morell made a huge save. Kinnersly tried to put the ball into the lower right corner of the goal softly, but Morell had a jump on the ball and made a diving save.
Nahui Navarrete was next up for the Bulldogs. The freshman delivered in a massive situation, putting the ball into the left side of the net as McGillion guessed Navarrete would try the right side.
Kelton Mager kept Brattleboro alive, converting his PK chance to bring the shootout to 4-4 and BBA with the last opportunity.
Carson Gordon’s kick could have been the game-winner, but McGillion made a great diving save to extend the contest to sudden-death.
It’s the first John James championship win for BBA since 2016, who downed Mount Anthony 1-0 that year.
The last time the John James Tournament champion was decided in an overtime game was 40 years ago. In the 1981 finale, BBA defeated Arlington 3-2 in overtime.