STORY BY CHIP CIRILLO | PHOTOS BY WHITNEY JARRELD
Christian Nelson gives himself a pep talk before every corner kick.
“On every corner I just run through my head, ‘You’re gonna get this ball. Like, you are,’ and just try to hype myself up,” Nelson said. “I saw the ball in the air. … I just went up and headed it in.”
He sure did.
Nelson’s header with 23 seconds left on a perfectly-placed corner kick by Blake Chalfant rallied Brentwood to a 2-1 win over visiting Independence on Tuesday night.
Nelson, a 6-foot-1 midfielder, narrowly missed on a header 20 minutes earlier, but this time he found the back of the net as the Bruins (5-0-0, 2-0-0 District 11-AAA) rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit.
He had two near-misses on headers, including one that hit the post, in last week’s win over Ravenwood.
“I mean, you take what you can get,” Nelson said. “Getting punched in the throat early is tough to come back, but we proved that we were the better team today.”
Chalfant didn’t like his first corner kick, so he focused on doing much better in his second chance with the game on the line.
“I had one earlier in the game and I kind of butchered it,” Chalfant said. “And so, there were about 34 seconds left on the game and I looked at coach and he told me to slow everything down. And I knew someone was going to finish it if it was a good cross and I put it in there, and luckily Christian got a head on it.”
Independence (2-2-1, 1-1-0) took a 1-0 lead on Will Henke’s goal inside the 18-yard box in the fourth minute after Brentwood failed to clear the ball.
Brentwood’s Sam Khomtchenko tied it at 1 when he scored from 5 yards out in the middle of the box after a nice pass from Forrest Wells in the 59th minute.
“It was a clutch win and you play to the last whistle,” Bruins coach Mike Purcell said. “A lot of times when you get a situation like that toward the end of the game where you have a restart or a set piece, you just feel the tension there. Blake had a perfect – I mean, you couldn’t have drawn it up better. Great corner, great finish.”
Khomtchenko missed a chance at the winning goal when Eagles goalkeeper Jax Martin stopped his penalty kick with a diving save to his left in the 62nd minute.
“A wonderful save to keep us in,” Eagles coach Josh Phillips said. “I thought that was the save that kept us in the game.”
Still, it was an agonizing loss for Independence, which had the early momentum.
“That stings,” Phillips said. “It is agonizing. I’m going to lose some sleep tonight.”
The Eagles earned the Bruins’ respect despite the loss.
“They’re very good,” Purcell said. “Independence is tough. They’re big, they’re physical, they’ve got a lot of good seniors on that team. Their keeper played a great game, stopped the penalty kick so we were fortunate to win.”
All five of Brentwood’s wins were by one-goal margins, including 1-0 shutouts in the first three games.
“We got a lead real early and we wanted to sit on that and play a little bit,” Phillips said. “I thought we played well.”
A defensive breakdown hurt the Eagles on the final corner kick.
“An unmarked man in the box,” Phillips said. “Both of their goals were unmarked men in the box. Their first goal came – wide-open man. I mean, a fifth-grader could have put that in the back of the net and he did. He trapped the ball at the PK spot and passed it into the net.”
Phillips described the winning goal as an unmarked man who wanted it more than Independence’s players did.
“Why that is, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and say, ‘why with 30 seconds left are we not selling out?’ And I don’t think we did on that last play,” Phillips said. “So we’ll learn from it and we’ll pick up, and we’ll move on.”
The Bruins host Antioch on Thursday.
“We’ve got Franklin next Tuesday and it’ll be rocking at Brentwood,” Purcell said of next week’s Williamson County rivalry game.