"It was a really dangerous lead to have (1-0)," said Mills. "I knew I had to put it in, so I gave it my all. I got nailed by the goalkeeper, but that didn't matter. It didn't hurt when the ball went in."
For Clear Spring, it was all downhill from there. Mills scored the next two goals for South (6-7), and John Vaverchak finished it off with just seconds left.
"(Mills') first one was the one that really took the wind out of our sails," said Blazers coach Matt Kinman. "He took away any chance we had of winning the game."
Considering how stingy the Rebels were playing defensively, it's understandable that a 2-0 lead would indicate the beginning of the end for Clear Spring (3-10).
"We've been splitting goalkeepers between Bobby (Wilhide) and Scottie Barish," said Tesla. "We were going to go with the senior (Wilhide), and our intention was to split the time. But Bobby looked so good in the first half, we didn't want to yank him."
It didn't help matters for the Blazers that South took the lead almost before the final strains of the National Anthem faded, when Sharew Hailu saw nothing but air between himself and Clear Spring goalkeeper Jeremiah Johnson, and booted it in for the 1-0 advantage.
The Blazers came within inches of tying the score just after halftime when Ryan Davis' shot from 15 yards out bounced harmlessly off the post. And until Mills broke things open the momentum could have easily swung either way.
"It was neck and neck until our second goal," said Mills. "Clear Spring played really well tonight."
But once Mills got started, the Blazers' dam broke. The senior's second goal came in the 65th minute, and sailed into the upper left corner of the net just beyond Johnson's reach. After Johnson was replaced in goal by Dustin Trumpower, Mills finished his evening by scooting a shot into the right side of the goal, and sent the Rebels into the playoffs with a win.
"We played them in the first game of the season," said Tesla, "and we really wanted to show some improvement. We won that game, 3-2, and going into the playoffs knowing we improved is important."
Both starting goalies finished the game with seven saves, with South taking 14 shots on goal to just 10 for the Blazers.