Both Mariner and Jackson had good chances to walk away with the victory, but the whistle blew at the end of two overtimes with the scoreboard at Everett Memorial Stadium reading 1-1.
Mariner dominated possession and the shooting battle. Jackson had a penalty kick in the first half that went awry. The end result is that both teams sit tied atop the league standings, each with four points and identical 1-0-1 records.
"Every time we play Mariner it's back and forth," said Jackson coach Brett Norton. "Both teams are very passionate.
"You have pockets where it's 10 minutes of high intensity and then it drops down a little bit. It's always fun playing against these guys."
Trailing 1-0, the Timberwolves looked to be out of luck until the 75th minute when they earned a throw-in toward the Mariner end thanks to one of their counterattacks. Senior defender Vadim Nagornyy launched a throw-in from 35 yards out into the box, where a Michael Zeng header flick bounced high off the turf and into the back of the side netting in front of a stunned Mariner defense and goalie Silvan Katynskiy.
"It's the first year that I've had a weapon like that so you've got to use it," Norton said of Nagornyy's throw. "It's incredible. It's so hard to judge a ball driven in like that.
"I don't think they suspected it at all."
Until that point Katynskiy played well enough to earn a clean sheet but one lapse was all it took to dramatically shift the game.
"He got caught watching, but that's the way it goes sometimes," DeSimone said.
In the other goal, Danny Scott was a vacuum, scooping up chance after chance throughout the 90 minutes of action.
"That goalkeeper is awesome," DeSimone said of Scott. "He saved their bacon. Bottom line."
His only lapse came on a furious run by Mariner after halftime. Jackson moved down the field briskly off the second half kickoff but were thwarted near the Mariner goal. Katynskiy's drop kick started the counter attack, first to Miguel Lopez, then Jorge Ruiz. Geovanni Ramirez finished the job, beating Scott one-on-one at the other end 29 seconds into the half.
Eight minutes later Ramirez had another similar breakaway, but Scott laid out at the Marauder forward's feet and snuffed out the shot.
In the 69th minute, Ruiz had what looked like a chip shot with Scott out of the goal, but he pushed it a foot wide of the post. Six minutes later, Jackson found the equalizer and Mariner went from what looked like a sure victory to overtime. Jackson was more aggressive in both extra periods emboldened by the late score, but neither team could convert.
Norton said he was happy to concede the shots to Mariner all night.
"That's part of our defense," he said. "We let people shoot from 25 yards out. That's a low percentage shot. We'll take the hit on losing the shot battle because they are poor quality shots."
The Jackson coach wished the team could have the opportunity back in the first half on the team's best chance of the game.
After a long stretch with the ball in Jackson's own end, the Timberwolves broke out with a counterattack in the 28th minute. The Marauders defense was caught off guard and had to commit a foul in the penalty area to stop the breakaway.
Junior defender Jared Davis stepped to the spot to take a penalty kick. His shot beat the keeper, but deflected down off the top of the crossbar and back to his own feet. Davis rushed another shot and it flew the crossbar by a wide margin.
"There was some confusion on who was supposed to take it and that's my responsibility to assign that before the game, so I take the miss on that one," Norton said.
Neither coach was overly worried or excited after the game despite the missed opportunites. Both know that the race for the crown is going to look like this game all season.
"I think every game is going to be like this," Norton said. "I think every team has good young talent, with a lot of motivation, a lot of drive and a chip on their shoulder so I think every Wesco South games going to be like this."
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Goals—Michael Zeng (J) Geovanni Ramirez (M). Assists—Jorge Ruiz (M), Miguel Lopez (M), Vadim Nagornyy (J). Goalkeepers—Mariner: Silvan Katynskiy. Jackson: Danny Scott. Records—Mariner 1-0-1 league, 1-0-1 overall. Jackson 1-0-1, 1-0-1.
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