BROCKTON - It seemed fitting that the MIAA Division 1 boys' soccer state championship game was played in Rocky Marciano Stadium, as the game between Framingham and St. John's of Shrewsbury had all the trappings of a heavyweight fight.
After 1 hour 50 minutes of regulation and overtime both teams were deadlocked at 0-0, neither team being able to deliver the knockout blow.
But there were no scorecards, no judges' ruling to determine the winner.
It's an unfortunate, and often-cruel reality in soccer that sometimes the only way to separate evenly matched teams is through the dreaded penalty shootout.
This wasn't news to Framingham after eliminating Weymouth in this fashion to punch its ticket to the finals. But the Flyers found themselves on the other side of penalty kick gods yesterday afternoon, as the Pioneers rallied behind midfielder turned shot-stopper extraordinaire, Chris Perkins, who made three saves in a 3-2 shootout win.
"You live by the sword, and die by the sword," said Framingham coach Dan Avery.
St. John's opted to send Perkins, a sophomore, to face Framingham's five shooters, all of whom converted their kicks against Weymouth - despite senior starter George Drouillard turning in a shutout performance.
It's the kind of decision that can make a coach seem like a genius or something very different. Coach Jon Brunell was happy it was the former.
"We had a good idea going in," he said on the decision to use Perkins in the shootout. "He's quick and has a very good first step."
That was evident in the shootout's second round, when he guessed correctly to block John Goncalves's shot, giving the Pioneers a 2-1 lead. Framingham's Ronaldo Viera and St. John's Joe Buckley each made good on their efforts with the third shot, followed by Perkins and Flyers goalkeeper Luca Pignatiello denying the fourth shooters to preserve St. John's one-goal advantage heading into the final round.
The fifth kicker for St. John's wasn't needed after Perkins used a strong hand to keep out Jon Ward's effort for the win.
"It was 50-50," said Perkins when asked if he had an idea if he would find himself between the posts in such a situation. "You have to pretty much expect anything."
Neither team showed any hint of ceding ground defensively as the game wore on, and goal-scoring opportunities were few and far between. Pignatiello and Drouillard weren't asked to be spectacular, just solid.
The Pioneers produced the most dangerous attacking moment early in the first half, when Pignatiello's save on Chris Stoker's shot fell into the path of Charlie Long who, with the goal at his mercy, pushed his shot over the bar.
For video highlights of the Division 1 final, go to Boston.com/schools.