When Eric Lubbert popped to his feet, the realization hit him head-on.
That was a heck of a save.
“I was like, ‘Whoa,’” said Lubbert, Quincy High School’s senior goalkeeper who smothered Collinsville forward Eric Tejada’s turn-and-rip shot toward the right post less than a minute into the first overtime of the Blue Devils’ Class 3A boys soccer regional championship Saturday. “It was a crazy save.”
He had one that meant even more.
Forced to go to a penalty-kick shootout after 100 minutes of scoreless action at Flinn Stadium, Lubbert knocked away the Kahoks’ third attempt, diving to his right to push Nick Suria’s shot wide.
The third-seeded Blue Devils followed by making their next two attempts and celebrated a 4-3 shootout victory when top-seeded Collinsville’s Jared Hamann missed wide on the final attempt.
“Obviously, they were going left a lot so I figured they’d go left,” Lubbert said.
He couldn’t have read it or played it any better.
“It was just crazy,” Lubbert said.
The fact it gave the Blue Devils their first regional title since 2011 made it quite possibly the biggest save of his career.
“Amazing,” Lubbert said. “I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”
Or maybe a victory against Quincy’s postseason nemesis at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Collinsville Sectional semifinals. The Blue Devils advance to face Edwardsville (12-6-4), which beat O’Fallon 4-2 in a PK shootout after they played to a 1-1 tie in the Edwardsville Regional championship.
They’ll think about that come Sunday night when they gather for a workout and to study a scouting report.
Until then, the Blue Devils (16-4-2) will wallow in winning a regional on their home turf.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” senior defender Chris Clay said. “We’ve been waiting all of our high school careers for this. Finally.”
Credit that to the fact the Blue Devils never flinched.
The Kahoks (18-5-1) created consistent pressure, piling up 14 shots during regulation and three more in overtime. Lubbert made 10 saves, crawling on his stomach at one point to cover a rebound in the second half, while the defense continually cleared balls and rotated back to keep Tejada or Luis De Anda from making a clear run at the goal.
“We knew we had to get the job done,” Clay said. “We didn’t want our last game on Flinn to be a loss.”
The Blue Devils did their best to turn stingy defense into scoring opportunities.
Senior midfielder Bradyn Nokes flicked a header on goal in the 36th minute Kahoks keeper Brett Niedzwiecki punched over the crossbar. Nokes, who had a hat trick in the regional semifinal, had another header that he sent wide in the second overtime.
Yet, the best scoring opportunity came in the final minute of the second overtime when J.D. Sohn juked a defender, got the ball on his left foot and blistered a shot right into the chest of Niedzwiecki.
After that, only a shootout remained.
“Our guys knew the order they were going,” Quincy coach Matt Longo said. “Luckily, we took it at the end where we practice our PKs. We had no say-so in it, but that helped.”
The Blue Devils took them with confidence. De Anda and Tejada made the first two for Collinsville, both shooting inside the left post. Riley Roth and Nokes made the first two for Quincy, also going left on both shots.
Lubbert then came up with the save of the season.
“A big relief comes off your shoulders,” Clay said.
At the same time, Clay had to follow it up by taking Quincy’s next shot. He buried it.
“You’re like, ‘OK, we’ve got to get one for him,’” Clay said.
The Blue Devils got two with Drew Chisholm following Clay by driving one into the right side of the goal.
“There’s anxiety because you’re like, ‘We’re up. This is about to happen,’” Clay said.
When Collinsville missed, the Blue Devils had done it.
“It felt good,” Clay said. “It felt great.”