Leave it to the team playing with magic to pull a rabbit out of its hat and avoid the disappearing act.
Class A No. 8 Millard South got a goal with 34 seconds left in regulation and escaped a District A-5 semifinal against Omaha Central with a 1-0 victory.
The win puts the Patriots into Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. district final against Omaha Burke with a spot in the state tournament on the line.
“Unreal,” Millard South coach Jim Cooney said.
It was the latest installment of “Cooney magic,” a term coined for the dramatics that the 23-year head coach seems to get out of his team.
Monday’s theatrics came from the unlikeliest of heroes.
Freshman defender Sam Stutheit got on the end of a Zach McClanathan assist and gave Millard South the winner in the 80th minute. It was the first goal of the season for Stutheit.
“Sometimes someone that no one expects is who it comes down to,” Cooney said.
But a tight match wasn’t a surprise. Millard South won in overtime when the teams met during the regular season.
“Those guys, they give it their best,” Cooney said. “They always give us fits. It was just a fun, good game.”
Now one win from getting back to the state tournament for the first time since winning it all in 2008, a Burke team looking to end its own postseason drought stands in the way. The Bulldogs' last trip to state came in 2009.
While Millard South won 3-0 when the teams met late last month, Cooney expects to see a different Burke team on Wednesday.
“I think you’ll see the same kind of game as the one we had today,” he said. “It’s likely going to come down to one score, one play.”
Other boys games
Lincoln Southwest 5, Lincoln North Star 0
Eli Rhoades had a goal and two assists as the top-ranked Silver Hawks cruised into the district finals. It was the 12th shutout of the season for Southwest, and the sixth straight clean sheet for keeper Nolan Fuelberth.
The Silver Hawks will meet Papillion-La Vista South, a 1-0 winner over Lincoln High, in the District A-1 championship on Wednesday. The Titans got a goal from Andre Santamaria late in the first half and played the final 15 minutes down a man.
Millard North 4, Elkhorn South 0
Four Mustangs scored as Millard North snapped a six-game skid with a win in the semifinals of the District A-2 tournament.
The Mustangs got goals from Ben Howard, Bryan Cervantes, Steven Esquivel and Brayden Wright in reversing results from a loss to Elkhorn South less than two weeks ago.
Millard North moves into the district championship to meet second-ranked Omaha South, an 8-0 winner over Lincoln Northeast on Monday. The Packers scored all eight goals in the second half. South won in come-from-behind fashion 3-2 against Millard North late in the regular season.
Omaha Bryan 5, Bellevue West 0
Make it seven straight wins for the Class A No. 8 Bears, who need just one more to clinch their first state tournament berth since 2009. Leading scorer Brage Sather-Larson tallied two more on Monday, pushing his season total to 14 and helping Bryan advance in the A-3 tournament.
It pushes the Bears into a district championship match Thursday against the winner of Tuesday night’s semifinal between Fremont and fourth-ranked Gretna.
Millard West 3, Omaha Burke 0
Callie Kirchner, Kelsie Baier and Morgan Atkinson tallied goals for the Class A No. 9 Wildcats. Millard West will travel to second-ranked Lincoln Southwest for the A-1 district final on Thursday. The Silver Hawks beat Omaha Benson 10-0 in the other semifinal on Monday. Southwest won in overtime when the teams met in mid-March.
Millard North 2, Omaha Central 0
Sena Ahovissi scored both goals for the Class A No. 7 Mustangs in the District A-2 semifinals. Millard North advances to the championship match later in the week to face either Lincoln Northeast or top-ranked Gretna, which meet Tuesday night.
Elkhorn South 3, Millard South 1
Maci Hain scored twice, and the sixth-ranked Storm moved into the District A-3 tournament championship match.
They’ll meet No. 3 Lincoln East, a 6-0 winner Monday over Grand Island, on Thursday night at Seacrest Stadium. The Spartans scored five times in the second half to break things open.