OMAHA | It is the beautiful game, but for South Sioux City it certainly did not end that way.
In a game it dominated in total shots, it was one from distance from top-ranked Elkhorn South that ended No. 2 SSC's season 3-2 in double overtime in the Class B state championship game at Morrison Stadium on the campus of Creighton University on Monday.
Hunter Albers connected on a 35-yard blast that went high over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Hector Chavez with 5:02 remaining in the second overtime to give the Storm its first state title in its second straight appearance in the finale. Albers, the team's leading scorer, capped Elkhorn South's season with a perfect 20-0 record.
The goal stunned a South Sioux City squad that had three quality chances off corner kicks just before the deciding goal. The first came on an impressive header from Edwin Macias off a pass from Bryan Arellano. That was followed by a Basha Said header that was again saved by Storm keeper Parker Lundgren while the final chance saw Bryan Arellano's header go high.
"We pushed, we pushed and we had our chances where we just couldn't put them in, they had a great keeper," said Arellano, who helped his team to a 28-8 advantage in shots. "They had a great goalie and they took advantage of the (shots) they had and they put them in."
Lundgren was dynamic in net all match long as he had 13 saves, all of them seemingly game-savers.
"They just couldn't find the net again," SSC Coach Lupe Gonzalez said. "That has been a struggle for us. We keep the pressure, we do a good job at shooting and everything. That is the way this is. You win some and you lose some, I guess, but I don't feel we lost because we gained so much from this championship."
Arellano, who along with Armando Garcia, were the only two SSC players with state experience previous to this week, and it looked like he might deliver the Cardinals their second state crown.
Arellano gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the 47th minute when he buried a penalty kick past Lundgren. The chance was set up by some strong footwork by Garcia in the box before he was taken down by an Elkhorn South defender.
The advantage lasted just two minutes as the Storm evened things up with a penalty kick of their own from Erik Sandnes.
"It has been a struggle with that because I have been in this game for a long time and it seems like we are always playing undermanned whether they are missing or not. That PK was very questionable," Gonzalez said.
The second half lacked a lot of rhythm as the Storm players spent a lot of time on the Morrison Stadium turf. Some of the physical play by the Cardinals drew yellow cards, but other calls were more questionable to a vocal South Sioux crowd in the stands.
"I am proud, first year with the program, boys played their hearts out, I can't blame them," Gonzalez said. "Not just because we lost but it is always here questionable calls. We always have to play against 12, 13, 14, all the refs, everything.
"I am not scared to say it anymore, I have been holding back for so long but that is the reality of it."
The Cardinals struck first in the opening half when Arellano rocketed a long shot from the right side that banged off the far post and into the net for the 1-0 lead with 21:08 showing on the clock. Arellano finished his senior season with a team-leading 20 goals.
"My coach told me 'if you have a chance turn and shoot,'" Arellano said. "I just shot it, I shot it with power and it snuck in the bottom corner."
The advantage was short-lived as the Storm evened the match 25 seconds later off a header from Sandnes.
Both teams, who were facing each other for the first time ever, had quality chances to add another goal in the first half. Arellano sent a strong cross from the side that found the foot of Said -- who delivered SSC's goal in its 1-0 win over Schuyler on Saturday --but he could not control the ball as it sailed high.
Elkhorn South nearly grabbed the lead in the final minute as Bee Akough's shot was saved by Chavez, but the rebound was sitting in front of him as Albers raced in. However, Chavez recovered in time to corral the ball.
The Cardinals reached their first state championship game since 2013 as they won a rubber match with Ralston in their first match last Wednesday 2-1 before the semi victory over No. 3 Schuyler.
SSC (19-4) was in a championship game at the state tournament for the third time in the past six years. South Sioux won the Class B title in 2013 -- 2-1 over Omaha Skutt -- a year after falling to Skutt 3-2 for the title. The Cardinals' only other championship game appearance came in 2001 when they finished as the runner-up.
"I think we only go up from here," Gonzalez said. "We have young players and we are going to be tough again next year."
The Storm lost last year's state title match to Columbus Scotus on a last-minute goal, 1-0.