Last year Henry Evans was playing grade rugby at Sacred Heart College when he dislocated his knee. In 2015 he missed over six months of sport and early this year it hurt to kick a ball.
The prospects of playing rugby in 2016 were bleak, but football became a lifeline when Evans was invited to play for the 2nd XI.
“The school was short of goal keepers so they encouraged me to play for the seconds. I had played football previously. After a couple of games in the seconds they called me up to the firsts which was a thrill,” Evans reflects.
Last week in Tauranga, Evans kept five clean sheets and saved a penalty in a shootout to help Sacred Heart claim their third National title in the past six years.
“It’s been a fantastic season. The combination of great coaching by Danny Hay, talent and hard work has all played a role in this success. I think the other thing that helps is the Sacred Heart brotherhood. It’s very hard to explain to outsiders what this is, but we are a very tight group and the brotherhood is palpable,” Evans acclaims.
Sacred Heart changed their formation and required some good fortune to prevail.
“We played more defensively than what we had previously. We figured we had real strength on defence and wanted to catch teams on the break. It worked well until the semi-final which we were pretty lucky to win. Westlake hit the post a couple of times and we battled through,” Evans explains.
In the final Sacred Heart fell behind almost resigning themselves to the prospects of penalties.
“There isn’t a lot between St. Kent’s and us so when they got ahead first we knew it would be hard to win in regulation time. We didn’t want to panic and break shape,” Evans says.
Evans had never been involved with a penalty shootout. His opposite was New Zealand U17 keeper Reuben Clark.
“I was confident our five shooters would score, but obviously they had to miss or I had to save one for us to win. I managed to stop the first short. Dylan Morris shot low-left and I anticipated the right direction and managed to block it,” Evans recalls.
What goes through a keeper’s mind during a penalty shootout?
“I try to watch for little things like the angle of the hips and the foot which helps provide a clue as to where the ball might be going. I don’t premeditate any of my movements because that means you’re not really concentrating on the ball,” Evans reveals.
Sacred Heart won the Auckland league for a third year in a row. They kept seven clean sheets in 14 games.
In 2017 Evans is thinking about returning to school with the desire of proving himself worthy of a college scholarship in the US.
Sacred Heart – National Results
Group: New Plymouth BHS, 3-0
Group: Mount Albert Grammar School, 4-0
Group: Lincoln High School, 1-0
Quarter-Final: Napier BHS, 2-0
Semi-Final: Westlake BHS, 1-0
Final: St. Kentigern College, 1-1 (Won on Penalties, 5-4)
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