Late goals lift Cougars over Lions
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
While drivers heading north on Interstate 65 had to deal with backed up traffic just miles away from Exit 29 last Tuesday, a different kind of standstill was brewing right behind Scottsburg High School.
In the first of two first-round matchups in the Scottsburg boys’ soccer sectional, North Harrison was slated to begin the postseason against the same team it concluded the regular season against in Salem.
The Cougars easily handled the Lions on Sept. 30 with a 4-0 shutout to conclude the home portion of their schedule. Thanks to a pair of players returning to the lineup for the Lions, the postseason rematch began in a much different manner.
Utilizing a sweeping defense, the Lions were able to draw even with the Cougars for the entire 40 minutes of the first half, with neither side able to draw first blood. Multiple shots on goal for both sides were denied by their respective goalkeepers, and potential runs were broken up until halftime arrived, sending both teams to their benches with goose eggs on both sides of the scoreboard.
“(Salem) was the aggressor for most of the first half,” Cougars’ head coach Kirk Wetzel said. “They were missing a couple of players last Thursday, so they had a totally different alignment and it was working for them. They ran a sweeper in the back, and that took us out of what we were wanting to do.”
For more than 15 minutes into the second half, there was no change in momentum for either side. The Lions had their best chance to take the lead when Gus Hanjorgiris was awarded a penalty kick. Cougars senior goalkeeper Logan McIntire was assisted by the top of the goal, which caused the ball to bounce harmlessly away from the net before snagging it.
Much to everyone’s confusion, and McIntire’s frustration, the officials ordered the free kick to be restarted after claiming to not have heard a whistle, despite multiple players on both sides having claimed otherwise. It mattered little as McIntire was able to block the kick before a follow-up shot soared over the goal.
“I think they were discussing whether (the foul) was worth a yellow card or something,” Wetzel said. “I didn’t hear what they said, but all the kids said they heard a whistle.”
The near scare with the penalty kick prompted the Cougars to end the scoreless tie as soon as possible. That came off the foot of senior defensive mid Garrett Hoehn, who slipped through the Lions’ defenses before firing a shot into the Lions’ goal in the 65th minute. Hoehn’s shot not only gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead, but breaking the tie helped to lift tension off the Cougars’ shoulders.
“We had already beaten them (in the regular season), but it’s hard to beat a team twice in a season,” Hoehn said. “As a defensive mid, I can run down the middle between the center back and side back on the weak side, then (senior midfielder) Quentin Scott just drew the defense and he hits me for the shot.”
Despite finally breaking into the scoring column, the Cougars were not done on the offensive end. Scott made sure of that as he also split the Lions’ defense to score just minutes after Hoehn. Another few minutes passed before the Cougars notched the hat trick, the third goal coming from the boot of senior forward Lucas Jobe.
The Lions were not shut out as Hanjorgiris was able to deflect a free kick past McIntire into the goal, yet it was merely a formality as the Cougars survived with a 3-1 victory.
“We worked on some stuff at halftime and slowed things down, being more patient and letting things develop,” Wetzel said. “We keep talking about playing too fast and things happen before somebody is in the right spot, so slowing it down and letting some things develop and we got some great shots in the second half.”
Unfortunately for the Cougars (11-4-1, 5-0 MSC), the battle against the Lions extended their season by just one more day before it ended at the paws of eventual sectional champion Madison Consolidated with a 2-1 loss to the Cubs in the semifinals last Wednesday. With the loss, the Cougars saw the end of the careers of their nine seniors — McIntire, Hoehn, Scott, Jobe, Carter Wetzel, Isaac Burks, Joseph Lee Hergenrather, Matt Moorman and David Seig — who helped them make their way to both the Harrison County and MSC titles.