HIGHLANDS — Needing a hero in triple overtime to stay alive, sophomore Erick Chimal stepped in.
Chimal lifted the Buckin’ Elks to a thrilling 3-2, triple-overtime victory Wednesday night in the third round of the 1A soccer state playoffs, punching the teams’ ticket into the Elite 8.
Elkin, coming off back-to-back mercy-rule cakewalks to open postseason play, jumped out to a 2-0 advantage on Highlands behind a pair of goals by senior captain Daniel Cortes.
But the Highlanders, ranked fifth in Eurosports’ 1A rankings, battled back, tying the game late with two goals to send the contest to overtime.
After two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods, the teams headed into a sudden death, five-minute extra session, setting up Chimal’s heroics.
Just two minutes into the period, the sophomore fired home the game-winning goal to send the Elks into the 1A West Region Semifinal with a thrilling 3-2 victory — his third goal of the postseason.
Senior Jesus Rivera turned in the best performance of his final season on the biggest stage, turning away a season-high 19 shots. His previous high was 12 against Wilkes Central in October.
Elkin, the No. 1 1A seed from the Mountain Valley Conference, advances to play third-ranked Thomas Jefferson Academy in the fourth round Saturday.
Game time is set for 6 p.m. in Mooresboro.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.