After Catholic High School scored for a 5-2 lead in the third and last period of yesterday's Schools National C Division boys' floorball final, they appeared to be primed for the title.
But that was only the start of a dramatic final 15 minutes at Our Tampines Hub. There would be a further eight goals shared between them and Meridian Secondary School, who had to go for broke.
They sent in an outfield player in place of their goalkeeper for the second half of the final period. It worked as they scored three and twice came within one goal of the equaliser. But last year's third-placed side ultimately fell short, 8-7, against the 2017 champions.
Catholic High captain Darius Chan was not surprised because it was a repeat of the tactic Meridian used in the teams' second-round game, which his school won 7-3.
But the final was "more intense" and he felt both happiness and relief to hear the final whistle, which came about 90 seconds after Meridian scored to make it 8-7.
"When they took away their 'keeper, we felt a lot of pressure but we had experienced it before," said the Secondary 2 student.
"We started strong but we got tired and maybe lost some focus. We panicked a little but we were lucky to keep the lead."
Meridian's Muhammad Danish Arshaq Sharin, 14, scored four goals but had mixed feelings after ending up on the losing side.
"I'm happy that we played well but sad that we are second," he said. "We have no regrets (in playing without a goalkeeper), we were not afraid. We just made multiple errors, like dribbling when we were not supposed to."
Ben Ow, Meridian coach since 2010, said his team had worked on the unconventional gambit of fielding five outfield players for the past month.
"I know our weakness is our defence, so I'm prepared and have to accept the fact that we might be a goal down with 10 minutes left," he said. "Of course it's high risk, high return. I don't regret it because even though we let in two, we still scored three goals."
The earlier girls final saw another close comeback halted by the clock, with Tanjong Katong Secondary School (TKSS) beating Swiss Cottage Secondary School (SCSS) 5-4.
TKSS led 5-1, then conceded three goals, the last with less than two minutes to go, but hung on.
TKSS captain Siti Mikhaella Mohamed Rusli wanted to avoid a repeat of last year's final. Then, SCSS equalised with two goals in the last 37 seconds and forced a penalty shoot-out that TKSS won.
Expressing pride in her team, the 14-year-old added: "Just the thought of penalties and losing the title really got to us. I told my teammates to play till the final whistle and persevere."