Perhaps someday a Super Bowl game, tied after two overtimes, will be decided on extra points, or an NBA championship awarded after a free throw-shooting contest.
Soccer does that at every postseason level with its penalty kicks, and that's how Modesto High's season was ended Saturday night by Lodi.
After the teams played to a 1-1 draw through two overtimes at Downey High, Lodi converted four of its five "free throws" while the Panthers missed two of their four — and the Flames advanced to the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs.
"Whenever it comes down to PKs, it's anyone's game," said Modesto senior forward Evin Doscher. "It takes a little of the luster out of winning and a little of the sting from losing."
The sudden end capped the Panthers' season at 18-2-6, a run that included a Modesto Metro Conference championship — the school's second soccer title in 28 years of playing the sport.
It leaves runner-up Downey High as the lone MMC team still alive. The Knights, who beat Merced 2-1 on Friday, will play at Franklin of Stockton on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Lodi, which improved to 11-2-5, will play at Golden Valley on Tuesday.
Modesto dominated the action for most of the 100 minutes, outshooting the Flames 29-9 and keeping constant pressure on Lodi keeper Jorge Diaz. But it was the Flames who struck first when a free kick from 45 yards out was allowed to bounce inside the box, where senior forward Sandro Santillan half-volleyed it into the left side of the net in the 26th minute.
"After the first 20 minutes — I don't know if it was jitters or us thinking too much — we settled into our game," said Modesto coach Matt Mendes.
Lodi, which scored only 39 goals in the regular season, collapsed into a sagging defense the rest of the game, and the Panthers responded with a barrage of shots. None found the back of the net until the 78th minute, when Hector Mariscal found some dribbling room in the middle of the box, forcing two defenders to close quickly. He dropped a pass to Victor Fuentes, who had time to settle the ball before nudging a shot into the left side of the net.
Both teams converted their first two penalty kicks in the best-of-five shootout, then traded misses on their third attempts.
The Flames converted their fourth shot and Modesto goal keeper Rene Mejia lined up to take the Panthers' turn. It was a risky move, since if Mejia missed he'd have to compose himself immediately, then get right back in goal in an effort to prolong the game.
"The only way I do that is if we have someone as mentally tough as Rene," Mendes said. "We had our list of PK guys, but three of the guys on that list were cramping up on the bench. I asked the team who wanted to be on the list, and I heard crickets. Rene stepped up and said he wanted it."
Diaz stopped Mejia's try, then Santillan ended the game with a clean drive into the left side.
"This is a cruel way to end it," Mendes said. "There are no magic words to say to a team after this. There will be a lot of positives to look back on, but not until Monday or Tuesday — after we finish moping this weekend."