Cards sink Jeep progress

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Washington Catholic’s Brantly Smith, center, split between Northeast Dubois’ Joe Gress, left, and Brayden Wineinger during Monday’s soggy Class 1A sectional semifinal in Dubois. The Jeeps battled Washington Catholic to a tie into the second half before the Class 1A No. 8 Cardinals punched in the final three goals for a 4-1 victory. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

DUBOIS — In a game marked by its gripping and frantic pace, it could all be encapsulated in a typical pass on the drowned Northeast Dubois pitch.

What appeared as promising, carrying momentum, was halted instantaneously, unpredictably by a puddle of water.

Despite entering the second half all square at 1-all, the Northeast Dubois boys soccer team’s postseason hopes were abruptly dashed by a three-goal push from Class 1A No. 8 Washington Catholic, which outlasted a feisty Jeep squad in Monday night’s first-round sectional battle.

All game, play seemed to be defined by the unexpected. The day’s rainfall forced creativity to be replaced by caution as the saturated turf impeded normally uncomplicated passes.

The Jeeps (10-5) did find consistency, however, in the place they had all season: a sturdy back line, anchored by seniors Jacob Hemmerlein, Lucas Schulthies and Joe Gress.

In the second half’s opening 10 minutes and with the match still deadlocked, Gress twice rescued a puddle-plugged ball off Northeast Dubois’ goal line, sliding into the net on the first occasion a split-second before Cardinal midfielder Brantly Smith came crashing in.

Schulthies governed the middle of the pitch, particularly in the first half, soaring to win 50-50 balls in the air while sending balls forward to the Jeeps’ attacking crew. As for Hemmerlein, the durable defenseman defined consistency at the sweeper spot, settling deliveries sent skipping past Northeast Dubois’ initial line of defense.

As Jeep coach Clive Williams put it, the play from the senior defenders provided more than momentarily preservation of the deadlock.

“They kept us going, kept us motivated,” Williams said. “I’ve been impressed with them all season.”

Facing a 1-0 deficit after the first half’s 17:36 mark, the Jeeps remained relentless in the offensive third of the field, eventually capitalizing on a Kai Schwalfenberg rebound as Jacob Gress slid and pounded the equalizer into the net with eight minutes remaining before intermission.

Walking back to the center line, Gress gathered water from a puddle at midfield and doused his face.

Unfortunately for the Jeeps, the finish came to be their lone tally of the contest, accentuating the squad’s season long problem, Williams said.

“(The halftime message was to) keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working, and we just have to finish our chances,” Williams said. “All season that’s plagued us. I looked up some statistics the other day, and we had like 200 shots on goal and we’ve only scored like 40 (goals). So our percentage is below 20 percent. That’s not good for the team. If we want to win, we’ve got to put in 50 percent of those chances.”

The Jeep defense executed a trap that forced a frustrated Cardinal offense to be called offsides almost a dozen times. However, the tactic had no bearing on a 20-yard cannon by midfielder Brody Wilson in the game’s 53rd minute, the eventual game-winner for Washington Catholic.

The Cardinals (15-0-1) added another with about 18 minutes to play and capped the four-goal performance with three-tenths of a second left in the game.

The match’s emotion prompted four yellow cards to be dealt, three involving goal celebrations. Additionally, a red card was given to a Jeep following the match because of descension toward an official.

All told, the season provided grounds for “good development” but “missed opportunities,” Williams said.

“The thing that I’m really proud of is the way that they’ve developed, because they’re a young team, and they’ve grown,” he said. “I have players that when they came to us, in terms of techniquewise, they had to learn a lot during the summer and they’ve developed that well. … They’ve done really, really well throughout the season, and it’s been a big reward so I’m really proud of them. And this game today threw all that stuff together. Just maybe a little bit too far for us.”

For Hemmerlein, the legacy of the team will be defined by its 10 victories, which surpassed the prior year’s win total by three.

With Monday being Exhibit A, the squad’s reputation will be cemented in its hard, physical brand, Schulthies said.

Tournament results aside, consensus harked on the Jeeps’ defensive clout.

“They were the reason our record is what it is,” said Jacob Gress, who notched a team-high 14 goals this season. “Sometimes we only won by one goal, and they only allowed half of what we scored this year. Our defense is the reason we did as good as we did this year.”

The senior brigade of Joe Gress, Schulthies, Hemmerlein and Zach Schepers, who played marginal minutes despite suffering a concussion Saturday, has set the benchmark, Williams said.

“It encourages (the younger players) to keep pushing and keep working, because they knew how hard those guys were working,” he said. “The seniors this year have been inspirational. All four of them have been inspirational to the younger guys. They’ve played so long. They were here my first year, and now to come back and see how they’ve matured and see how they play the game… It’s a shame. I wish I could have another year with them, to be honest.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

 




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