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    Independence rallies for postseason win over Fairview

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    Khalil McDonald’s hat trick led Independence to a 3-2 come-from-behind win at Fairview in a Division III district semifinal on Tuesday.

    With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 12-6-1 and extended their winning streak to three straight games.

    “I’m extraordinarily proud of the team,” said Independence coach Brien McDonald. “In all the games we played this year, whenever we conceded a first goal, we could not win the game. To concede a goal and go down 1-0, then to come back and tie it, and to concede a devastating goal right before the half, and then to come out with the resiliency to not only tie it but to win it on the road was an extraordinary effort by every guy on the team.”

    Fairview broke a scoreless tie with 23 minutes left in the first half.

    Mark Pillar then broke free along the sideline, but the Fairview keeper turned away his accurate shot.

    Khalil McDonald was in the right place at the right time when he intercepted a Fairview pass and sent it to the net for the game-tying goal.

    The Warriors took advantage of an Independence mistake and scored their second goal of the game with just six seconds remaining in the opening half.

    Despite the momentum-changing play to end the half, the Blue Devils remained confident.

    They had controlled possession for much of the first half and stuck to the game plan in the second.

    McDonald tied the game midway through the second half when he punched in a deflection off a Pillar shot on goal.

    His game-winner came with just about two minutes remaining in regulation.

    Joseph Walchanowicz passed McDonald the ball in the box but he was fouled before he could fire off a shot.

    McDonald then buried the penalty kick to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the game.

    “I walked up to the penalty line as calmly as possible,” he said. “The goalie was trying to play mind games on me and pointed to a side telling me to shoot there. I ended up putting exactly where he was pointing but he couldn’t stop it. I can’t even explain the emotions I felt after scoring. I was almost crying at one point; I was so excited.”

    Independence’s defense turned away Fairview for the final two minutes to seal the win.

    “Coming back in the second half was an unreal experience,” McDonald said. “It just shows how hard our team will work. We gave up a goal with six seconds left in the second half and that defeated us but we just kept fighting. The difference was our will to win in the second half. We knew that if we didn’t pull it together our season was going to end, and I think that motivated us enough to fight until the last whistle.”

    The Blue Devils advanced to play Rootstown in a district championship game on Saturday at Barberton High School.

    Independence defeated Rootstown 1-0 in a district semifinal last fall.

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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