CARBONDALE -- This one had it all.
There were big shots, big saves, a bit of fisticuffs, a handful of yellow cards, emotional swings, big comebacks, extra periods, muddy falls, violent collisions and in the end, a trophy and a wet dirty coach.
It didn't even need most of that. After all, nearby rival towns were involved and it was the postseason.
The championship of the Effingham 2A Regional, played at Carbondale's Fralish Soccer Complex on Saturday, was simply an epic high school boys soccer match won by Marion in double overtime, 5-4, over the Carterville-Herrin co-op.
Marion (10-8-3) now advances to the Troy Triad 2A Sectional and faces Columbia (20-3-3) on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., which will be followed by Carbondale against Waterloo Gibault.
Columbia knocked off top-seeded Alton Marquette, 3-2, to win the Bethalto Civic Memorial Regional title.
After collecting the championship plaque and posing for pictures, Marion coach Rob Underwood made good on a motivational promise to his team that he would dive across a muddy patch of midfield. It was met with great applause -- and a bucket of water thrown on him by his son, Zachary.
That was all made possible when Marion senior captain Tyson Stoecklin scored what proved to be the winning goal with a little shot to the left corner of the net after Lions goal keeper Mitchell Cagle slipped and fell. The goal, assisted by Brockton Powell, came in the second 10-minute overtime half with 5:13 remaining and put the Wildcats ahead 5-4.
"I was just trying to find a run through the middle," Stoecklin said. "(Brockton) happened to find me and I just tried to put it in the corner and got lucky."
It looked like rout early as Hamzah Baker scored from an assist from Powell in the sixth minute., then Stoecklin scored from another Powell pass at the midway point of the first half, then Powell got his own goal with a penalty kick with 10:46 still left in the opening stanza.
But the Lions (8-8-1) got two goals before the break and not only tied it but took the lead in the second half.
The first goal came off a sweet kick by Hayden Holloway that got past Marion keeper Camden Dodds with 8:55 left and the second came when Chandler Teeling knocked in the ball while colliding with Dodds with 25 seconds left before the break.
A fight nearly broke out in the net but order was quickly restored and dealt with during the intermission by the coaches, officials and even school administrators.
"Our guys started losing their cool a little bit and at halftime we had to calm them down and let them know that if they get a red (card), now you're letting the whole team down," Underwood said. "They came out more level-headed in the second half."
True, but that also led to a downshift in aggression for a spell. And it got real when Evan Lennox kicked a ball from almost midfield that bounced up into the cross bar and spun back into the net to tie it at 3-3.
It got even more real for the Wildcats when Jake Baumgarte jumped and headed in a corner kick pass from Riley Sims to give the Lions a 4-3 lead with exactly 13 minutes left in regulation.
"We knew we had our work cut out for us," Underwood said. "I thought I was having a heart attack. My assistant coach kept telling me to take deep breaths. It was nerve racking but we pulled it off."
The entire match was played on a wet muddy field churned up from Carbondale holding its own regional championship the night before. This match was supposed to be in Effingham, but when Carterville-Herrin knocked out the host school, officials allowed the common sense decision to move it to a closer neutral site than make both teams travel two hours.
At times it was like a blooper reel, however, with wipeouts all over the place.
"It was bad. It wasn't fun," Stoecklin said. "It was like a Slip 'N Slide. People were losing their footing all over the place."
Nobody was exempt.
"Guys were sliding all over the place but it was the same stuff for both teams," Underwood said. "We juat had to battle through and take advantage of our opportunities."
Marion tied the match with a bit of a fortunate break.
The referees noticed Cagle's face was bleeding -- to the point that blood from his nose made it look like he was wearing clown lips -- and made him leave the field for medical treatment. That forced Teeling into the temporary keeper role and sure enough, he was tested early.
The Wildcats pushed the ball and Teeling came out too far and Powell knocked a shot easily past the freshman to make it 4-4 with 10:38 left. Cagle quickly re-entered the match with tissue shoved up his nostrils and made a nice save moments later.
It stayed tied until the end of regulation and looked like penalty kicks might be coming until Stoecklin's goal with just over five minutes left.
Although it was a high-scoring match, the Wildcats wouldn't have won without the usual strong effort from Drew Garrett and Nick Cornaghie keeping as many shots away from Dodds as possible.
"Those guys are a force back there in the middle," Underwood said. "They shut people down on the back line. They're quick and know how to take angles on balls and clear them out."
Also contributing to the victory were Junah McPhail, Braden Dalton, Zach Underwood, Jade Chew, Jesse Strang, Dresden Bell and Chase Dodds in addition to those already mentioned.
Camden Dodds was marked for 18 saves in goal.