CLARE — Kris Anderson wasn't sure Elk Rapids would ever break.
Then his Orioles finally made their own break.
Ludington won a cold battle of top-10 teams in Wednesday's Division 3 boys soccer regional semifinal at the Brookwood Athletic Complex in Clare, emerging with a 3-2 victory.
It took extra time to decide the winner, as the squads fought to a deadlock after regulation for the second time this season.
“The score doesn't indicate how much pressure we put on them,” Anderson said. “Their keeper played one heck of a game tonight. He made some saves — one he squeezed in between his legs. I don't know how it didn't get through. Huge credit to them, the way they played.”
Elk Rapids goaltender Ethan Pike kept frustrating the Orioles, who had consistent scoring opportunities denied by the Elks senior who ended with 20 saves.
That save number is an estimate. Elks coach Nate Plum ran out of stat sheets a few weeks ago, and had been putting hash marks next to Pike's name in the roster margin for each save. He ran out of space.
“We were wondering if this was going to be one of those nights where you pressure, pressure, pressure and you can't get one in and you walk off afterwards, going, 'How did we lose?'” Anderson said. “But they kept fighting. I told them there would be turbulence. Don't let that turbulence deter you from what our goal is and ride that goal until the end.”
No. 9-ranked Ludington (18-4-2), last year's Division 3 state runner-up, took its first lead of the game with 3:32 left in the first 10-minute overtime session on Brayden Porter's goal off a Steven Darby assist.
By the time overtime started, temperatures plunged to 38 degrees from 44 at the game's start.
“Overall, I think we showed well,” Plum said. “We had guys show their talent. And the nice thing is, we're young.”
The Elks' starting lineup included three sophomores, a freshman and two juniors.
“One of my goals is to be around with one of the best Elk Rapids teams,” Plum said. “When we have state championships, that means a lot. We've got the talent to do it and the program to do it. I'd love to be around for that to happen again. It will. It will. The future's bright.”
The No. 5 Elks (22-4-2) made four consecutive state finals trips from 1995-98, coming back with two state championship trophies under coach Al Gredlein.
Pike played a large role in this year's attempt to join that type of elite company. He set a school record with 18 shutouts this season, and displayed those talents regularly Wednesday as well.
“He's one of the best,” Plum said of Pike. “Last year, he was kind of overshadowed by the kid from Buckley, Joey Weber, who was a really good keeper as well. I think they were two of the best and it's a bummer we never got to play each other.”
Ludington furiously kept trying to figure out the Elks netminder.
In the second half's 15th minute, Pike swatted away a header off a corner kick. Two minutes later, another save off a corner header. A minute after, Pike charged a two-on-none Orioles rush and broke up the play. Gunnar Keaton cleared the rebound.
Ludington — which faces Muskegon Orchard View (17-4-1) in Saturday's 1 p.m. regional final — finally broke through with 11:46 left in regulation to tie it 1-1. The Elks had led 1-0 since 17:48 of the first half on a Zach Nowak goal.
Cooper Kerkhof's free kick goal with 3:48 left gave Elk Rapids the lead back, but Noah Peterson scored his second goal of the game on a penalty kick with 51 ticks left in regulation.
The two played to a 1-1 draw Sept. 21, on the Elks' home turf. But the Orioles had seven players suspended for that contest, and weren't the same team.
“They scored on their set pieces, and we scored through the run of play,” Anderson said. “That's really the difference. I feel through just playing the ball, we can do stuff against them. Their set pieces, they get dangerous on, and twice they got us.
“I knew this game was going to be close. They are a very good team.”