PEACH BELT CHAMPIONS! Pugh's goal gives Clayton State men thrilling 1-0 double-overtime triumph

From Staff Reports

In another chapter of the thrilling Clayton State/Lander men's soccer rivalry on Saturday, one shot was all it took.

Ryan Pugh's goal two minutes into the second overtime period was it took as Clayton State pulled off a thrilling 1-0 victory over Lander in front of a raucous crowd at Laker Field. Sixth-ranked Clayton State improves to 15-2 overall and 7-1 in the Peach Belt Conference. The Lakers share the PBC regular season title with Lander (11-6, 7-1 PBC), but they will be the No. 1 seed in next week's Peach Belt Conference Tournament.

Clayton State, which will play host to USC Aiken on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., has now won five PBC regular season titles in its history.

"Are you kidding me?," said Clayton State head coach Pete Petersen. "Every time we play Lander, you can through everything out the window and it's a battle to the very end. (Lander head coach) Van (Taylor) was very gracious and his players were very class, but I am so very proud of our guys. We tried different combinations, and we finally had one that worked in the end.

"The officiating was outstanding and they let both teams play and determine the outcome."

It was vintage Clayton State-Lander during regulation as neither team gave an inch defensively and laid it on the line for the full 90 minutes. Lander had a key opportunity late in regulation as a shot by Fred Parker hit the post, and bounced back to Craig Hughes, who hammered home a shot at the open net.

But an alert Deni Lulic was there to clear it for the Lakers with two minutes remaining.

Neither team mounted much offense in the first overtime before Clayton State capitalized. Matty Phillips sent the ball into the penalty box, and Clayton State's Leighton Fredericks and Lander goalkeeper Scott Playle both went for the ball in the air. When it was loose on the ground, Pugh was there to hammer it home for his 12th goal of the season and a glorious celebration on the field for the Laker players and fans.

Clayton State goalkeeper Brian Garcia recorded five saves for his eighth shutout of the season, while Playle recorded six saves for the Bearcats. Clayton State out-shot Lander 24-11.