Joey Banner

Titusville goalkeeper Joey Banner (left) makes a sliding stop as Meadville’s Bricen Jones (8) crashes the net against Titusville defender Logan Fish.

It would take a thorough look back into the archives to know if there had ever been a two-day hat trick in the history of the Titusville Rockets boys soccer program. Nevertheless, Sam Ruot now has one to his credit as the Rocket forward powered three goals into the back of the net across two afternoons to lead the Brown and Gold over the visiting Meadville Bulldogs, 3-2, in Region 4 action at the Ed Myer Complex.

Friday saw the completion of a contest that began Thursday afternoon, but was stopped with 28:13 remaining in regulation and the score knotted at 1-1.

On Thursday, Meadville got on the board initially in the first half. Jordan Unger took a corner kick for the Bulldogs and sent the ball in front of the goal. Meadville then took two shots that were blocked by Titusville defenders. As the Rockets were unable to clear the ball out of the attacking zone, the third time was the charm when Matthew Devore sent his shot into the back of the twine at the 12:33 mark.

However, it didn’t take long for the Rockets to respond. 

Two minutes later, Ruot took a through ball from Anton Morrison-Sanchez right to goal and sent a shot past Meadville netminder Ace Reese with 10:08 left in the half. It was the first of his three goals scored in the contest.

Neither side would find the back of the net again before thunder and lightning initially caused a 30-minute delay of action, which was then followed by a rain storm that triggered the postponement to Friday.

When the whistle sounded for play to resume on Friday, Meadville came out with the hunger to win. The Bulldogs took 16 shots in the remainder of regulation and pulled ahead 2-1 when Alex Wood’s corner kick was converted into a goal on Bricen Jones’ header with 18:46 remaining.

That would be the only time Meadville would have success the rest of the way. Titusville coach Joey Timon called the Bulldogs goal a “turning point” for his team.

“I think getting scored on actually woke them up a bit,” Timon said. “It’s a good thing from where we came from. We used to get scored on and then just check out. The fact that we overcame that just shows where our mentality is.”

Titusville showed its resilience a few minutes later when they scored on a corner kick of its own.

Campbell Sines took the corner with just under nine minutes remaining. Crashing the net, Ruot located the ball and connected using his knee to get the shot past Reese for the second time in two days, tying the match up at 2-all.

Meadville immediately responded with a couple of qualities scoring chances in the final minutes before overtime. However, the Rocket defense, led by goalkeeper Joey Banner, stood tall. Banner made a one-handed save on a direct kick with 7:40 to go, one of six saves he made during Friday’s conclusion.

“It was in our end a lot and there was a lot of pressure, but I made one stop, got up and made another,” Banner said. “It doesn’t matter how many, I’m ready for it.”

The two clubs headed into the 10-minute overtime period knotted at 2-2. It didn’t take long for the Rockets to cap off their comeback.

Under two minutes into the extra session, Frank Barger handled a throw-in about 30 yards away from the goal. Sines tried to play the throw-in and his touch sailed high in front of the net. That’s when Ruot came crashing in and jumped right in front of Reese and headed the ball into the back of the twine for the game-winner 1:44 into overtime.

“Frank’s throws can be considered as a corner kick, and his throws are impressive,” Ruot said. “I just jumped up, hit it off my head and it went in. (Getting the hat trick) feels amazing and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They gave me some really nice passes and opportunities. It’s all a team sport and I did it for the team.”

With the victory, the Rockets improved to 4-4 on the season and avenged their season-opening 2-0 loss at Meadville. 

“That was huge,” Timon said of the comeback. “You talk about the time that these guys are putting in; they’re buying in and it’s paying off. Hopefully that can continue. That was a game that we looked at as a must-win. They got one from us early in the season and we felt like we improved since then.”

Titusville will look to get above .500 on Monday when the Rockets travel to Oil City at 4 p.m. The Rockets beat the Oilers 2-1 in overtime in their prior meeting on Sept. 15 at the Ed Myer Complex.

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