By Benjamin Peacock/Little Rock Rangers
It’s not the story the Little Rock Rangers players and staff nor the over 2,000 fans in the stands of War Memorial Stadium had written in their minds, but the Rangers’ 2019 season came to an end Wednesday night. The Rangers faced Demize NPSL in the Heartland Conference semifinal four days after meeting them in the final season match. The playoff battle came down to penalty kicks that resulted in Demize’s advancement and the Rangers’ final showing on the pitch for the year.
Striker Lance Crabtree netted one early in the seventh minute but was ruled offside. And then a defensive miscue in which a defender and goalkeeper collided on a set piece opportunity eight minutes later gave Demize the lead 1-0.
Crabtree put the Stags back into the match with the ball put between the goalkeepers legs at 26 minutes, fed from the left wing by forward Donald Benamna. The offside flag stayed down this time and the match was tied 1-1.
Here the score would remain all the way through 120 minutes of action, including a 30-minute extra time.
Benamna had at least five shots on goal in the second half and extra time, but like all other attempts on the night, the ball refused to go in, sailing wide, flying over, hitting posts, or outright being stopped by the keeper.
A contingent of Rangers fans migrated over to the stands behind the net where PKs would be taken. Demize received the first kick and scored. Forward Alex Guadron took the first shot for the Rangers and was blocked. Demize sunk the next two as well, while midfielder Carlos Beltran and defender Ben Watson were also stopped, making PKs 3-0 in favor of Demize and advancing them on to the Heartland Conference final.