If ever there was a good day for bonus soccer, Friday was that day.
Sunshine, a blue sky and temperatures in the 60s provided a pleasant backdrop for the semifinals of the boys state high school tournament at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium, where Colony and South both needed overtime to secure victories and advance to Saturday's championship.
"This is what I dream about: playing soccer, perfect weather, competitive game," South goalie Griffin Toomey said. "It's what I play the game for, really."
South escaped with a 2-1 victory over defending state champion Dimond, and Colony held off Cook Inlet Conference champion West in a 4-2 win.
The Wolverines will face Colony in Saturday's championship match at 5:45 p.m., and Dimond and West will battle for third place at 1:15 p.m.
Friday's consolation action at Eagle River High School also featured an overtime match. Wasilla and Soldotna played through two 10-minute overtime periods, two five-minute, sudden-death overtime periods and were still knotted 2-2. They finally settled the match in a penalty-kick shootout, with Wasilla prevailing 4-3.
South didn't need sudden death, thanks to a goal from Liam Farrell in the fourth minute of the second overtime period.
Farrell was stationed near the right post on a corner kick from the opposite end. When the ball came his way, he booted it through an opening on the right side of the net.
The match's other goals came before 10 minutes elapsed, with Dimond striking first on a close-range crossing shot from striker Clayton Nadon in the second minute and South's Hayden Western tying it up at 1-1 in the eighth minute.
A relatively benign second half gave way to furious overtime action that had both goalies diving to make saves.
Dimond nearly took the lead in the first minute of the first overtime period, but the Wolverines managed to repel two hard shots before Toomey managed to dive into a pile of players and secure the ball. He was visibly shaken from the skirmish and slow to rise.
"It's dog-eat-dog when you get into overtime," Toomey said. "Clayton got off a great first shot and I was able to parry it out and I was really lucky to have my defense, Ron Perry and all them, they sacrificed themselves to block a shot for me while I was down."
Dimond controlled the run of play throughout much of the match, displaying excellent ball handling and passing skills. The Lynx put pressure on the South goal during the 20 minutes of overtime, but repeatedly came up empty.
"I strongly feel we're the best team in the state," Dimond coach Barat Killian said. "Every time we play South, they give us their best game. In the end, it's really heartbreaking for these guys, because they know they're a quality group."
For Colony, winning in overtime is becoming routine. The Knights needed overtime to complete a comeback 2-1 win over Juneau in Thursday's first round.
Unlike Thursday's match, however, the Knights established control early against West. Tanner Menard gave Colony a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute and Jacob Spannagel extended it to 2-0 in the 10th minute. Both goals came from close range, with Spannagel using nifty footwork to juke a defender and punch a shot past the goalie.
West made it 2-1 in the 27th minute when Henry Vasquez made a slick crossing pass to set up an Abdou Sallah goal.
West's skill with the ball provided ample opportunity to tie the match, but the Eagles waited until the waning moments to make it happen. It was well into stoppage time when Vasquez broke free from a scramble in front of the net to deposit an equalizer and send the game to overtime.
"They showed great fortitude in coming back," West coach Laef Eggan said. "I honestly thought that once we tied the game that we were gonna carry it through."
Instead of feeling down about letting West back in it, the Knights drew confidence from Thursday's overtime win.
"I knew we were gonna pull back, because the first game we were down one and brought it back, so I knew we could bring it back," said Colony's Kyle Bolam, who scored the match's final goal.
Nick Blohm scored the game-winner for Colony two minutes into the first overtime period, taking advantage of a lapse in focus on the West defense that left him wide open to receive an assist from Spannagel.
"It was a battle and we lost focus and concentration," Eggan said. "It's a game of inches and one mistake will cost you."
Bolam made sure there would be no West comeback when he scored in the eighth minute of the second overtime period. He chased down a rebound off his own shot and used his left foot to shoot the ball behind the goalkeeper. Bolam spread his arms like wings and circled back toward the sideline in celebration.
"That's what we needed," Colony coach Jeremy Johnson told Bolam as the two hugged.
Colony won its only state title in 2000. South is trying to win its fifth title and its first since 2009.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By JEREMY PETERS