By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
MUSTANG — With about 5 minutes remaining, the referee walked over to the Norman High coaches and explained that one more infraction from No. 10 would be No. 10’s last. And, if the Tiger brain trust took him at his word, it would have been No. 10’s last for two games because that’s the way red card’s work in high school soccer.
Good thing Theo Ostas had already led the Tigers (3-2) to a 2-0 victory over Owasso (4-1) on the final day of the Bronco Cup.
“He really, really, can get after it,” NHS soccer coach Gordon Drummond said. “There’s a competitive streak in him that sometimes goes over the top and gets him in trouble, but then, at the same time, it also means goals.”
Saturday afternoon, all in the second half, it meant one goal, though it nearly meant three or four. And, much better for the Tigers, Ostas was only the most conspicuous example of the two different halves NHS played against the Rams. About every Tiger was his own example.
“(Coach) told us to come out and prove a point. I thought our attitude was great in the second half,” Ostas said. “And we just put pressure on them. We found space and, I don’t know, we just started working as a team.
All at once, NHS became more aggressive.
It meant the Tigers more eagerly pressured the ball in their own half of the pitch, and were quick to help teammates when that pressure led to Owasso chances; as well as offensively, where the Tigers were either winning 50-50 balls cleanly or forcing the Rams to commit fouls to prevent them from doing so.
“Best 25 minutes of the season, without question,” Drummond said of the time frame that began with the second-half kickoff.
For Ostas it led to two second-half breakaways, when he grabbed balls that should have been corralled by Owasso defenders, and somehow ended up on the other side of those defenders with the ball on his foot. Both times, Ostas was stoned by Owasso keeper James Contreras.
He wasn’t done.
With about 15 minutes remaining, Jean-Paul Pelletier cleared the ball to no Tiger in particular, away from the NHS penalty box beyond midfield, where Owasso’s Jordan Permaul was only too happy to casually watch it roll out of bounds.
Instead, Ostas showed up out of nowhere, sprinted around Permaul and grabbed the ball with his foot. Eventually, he played an easy cross to Travis Crain, who had all the time in the world to put it past Contreras and did.
It was the final goal, the backbreaker, and a sort of justice for Ostas, who easily could have had two goals already before finally assisting his way into the scorebook.
About 15 minutes earlier, Matt Hockett had scored the game-winner for the Tigers, beautifully bending a 28-yard free kick around a wall of Rams and into the near bottom corner of the net. Contreras got a hand on it but couldn’t stop it.
Hockett almost picked up his second goal on another free kick, from 36 yards, but Contreras flailed to his left just in time to keep the ball out.
At the half, Drummond had gotten on his team for yapping at each other, yapping at the referee and playing without focus. At the time, the Tigers were fortunate to be in a 0-0 tie, all thanks to keeper Austin Earley, who beautifully stopped a penalty kick from Owasso’s Cole Hilton.
“We played a lot harder, a lot smarter,” Hockett said of the after-half effort. “We played better as a team.”
Just in time, too.
Tuesday night it’s unbeaten and defending state champion Edmond North visiting Gordon Drummond Field. Also, it’s a game the Tigers must win if they hope to claim a District 6A-1 crown.
“It’s definitely good timing,” Hockett said.
Follow me @clayhorning
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