Noah Collins didn’t feel the pressure often associated with penalty kicks that can overwhelm many a goalkeeper.
Instead, feeling the presence of his late brother, Christopher, Collins stopped three Carthage penalty kicks to lead Branson past the Tigers 4-2 Tuesday. The teams were tied at 1-all after two overtimes, before the Pirates won on penalty kicks 3-1.
Justice Webber’s goal clinched Branson’s first win ever over Carthage, after Collins put the Pirates in prime position to win by stopping three of the Tigers’ first four penalty kicks.
Collins, in his first year as Branson’ goalkeeper, was born a sixtuplet. Christopher, one of three boys, died shortly after birth.
“This one was for my brother,” Noah said. “Before every penalty kick, I prayed for him to the Lord. That eased my mind and I went the direction He wanted me to go.”
“When you can find a way to center yourself in those kind of situations, that helps your focal point,” Branson coach David Brenner added. “Everybody has their own way of doing it. Noah found inner peace. That’s what it takes and then you don’t get erratic and out of control.”
Collins couldn’t have picked a better ending than for the teams to line up for a scheduled five penalty kicks apiece.
“I love PKs for some reason,” he said. “I don’t know why. Most goal-keepers hate them.”
Collins and Branson also won by penalty kicks in a 1-0 victory against Clinton that helped power the Pirates to the Bolivar Tournament championship two weeks ago.
“We’ve got confidence in Noah,” Brenner said. “He knows what his job is. We asked him to get us one stop and he got three. What more could we have asked for?
"He’s good reaction-keeper and that’s what penalty kicks come down to. You pick your spot and react. He did a great job of it.
“I told him, ‘You’re there for a reason. I have confidence in you and your whole team does, too.'"
Carthage also lost by penalty kicks to Cassville last week.
In addition to Webber, Branson received penalty-kick goals from Nino Stiglianese and Kyle Sutton.
After Carthage gained a 1-0 lead in the first half, Webber made the extra sessions necessary by scoring on a free kick from 40 yards out with seven minutes remaining in the second half.
Webber also showed off his exceptionally strong right leg by nearly scoring on a free kick earlier in the second half from 60 yards out. His booming and accurate kick forced Carthage goalie Dorian Perez-Ordonez to make a diving save.
“We’ve got a couple other kids with decent legs, but Justice has 10-15 yards on just about anybody you can find out here,” Brenner said. “(Webber) has the green light almost anywhere on the field to put it on frame. If you watch his ball, it isn’t much higher than the cross bar the entire way.”
Branson (11-3) upped its winning streak to seven and halted a stretch of nine seasons of losses to Carthage, annually one of the top teams in southwest Missouri.
“This is huge for us,” Brenner said. “I was looking back on seasons the other day and this has always been the game that our season pivoted on.
“I don’t think we’re going to sneak up on anybody now. We felt we should have beat Ozark (earlier this month), but we didn’t. This one will push us up in people’s eyes."
Branson meets another perennial power Thursday, as the Pirates host Springfield Catholic.