SINGAPORE - After Catholic High School scored for a 5-2 lead in the third and last period of Tuesday's (Sept 3) Schools National C Division boys' floorball final, they appeared to be in prime position to win 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 scored as both finalists, Catholic High and Meridian Secondary School, were involved in a goal-fest.
Part of this was down to Merdian's go-for-broke tactics. Needing to score, they opted to swop their goalkeeper for an outfield player for the second-half of the final period.
The strategy worked to some extent as last year's third-placed finishers scored three goals and were on two occasions within one goal of drawing level with Catholic High, champions in 2017, but ultimately fell short and lost 8-7.
Catholic High captain Darius Chan was not surprised by Meridian's tactic as the latter had done the same when both sides met in the second round, which Catholic High won 7-3.
But the Secondary 2 student said 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," he said.
"We started strong but as the game went on, people got tired and maybe lost some focus. At the end of the third period we panicked a little but we were lucky to keep the lead.
"We were very nervous but had to keep our cool, so we (reminded) ourselves to calm down."
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 substituting the goalkeeper for an additional field player), we were not afraid.
"We just made multiple errors like dribbling when we were not supposed to, which led to us losing the ball."
Ben Ow, Meridian coach since 2010, said his team had worked on the unconventional gambit of fielding five outfield players for the past month.
"As a coach, I know our weakness is (in) 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 between Tanjong Katong Secondary School (TKSS) and Swiss Cottage Secondary School (SCSS) saw a similarly close comeback halted by the clock as the former won 5-4.
Defending champions TKSS held a 5-1 lead before SCSS scored three goals, the last with less than two minutes to go, but hung on.
TKSS captain Siti Mikhaella Mohamed Rusli said her team were determined to avoid a repeat of last year's final. Then, SCSS had tied the match with two goals in the last 37 seconds and forced a penalty shoot-out, which 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."