On-field, off-field memories make title special

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Forest Park's Adam Braunecker celebrated after scoring a goal in the Rangers' 3-2 victory against Washington Catholic during Wednesday night's Class 1A boys sectional championship in Dubois. The Rangers handed the Cardinals their first loss of the season in 17 matches and collared their first sectional title since 2009. For a gallery of photos, click here.


By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

DUBOIS — Holding the sectional championship trophy above his head while flanked by teammates, Kyle Lubbehusen smiled for photographs like everyone else.

Lubbehusen

But the Forest Park senior midfielder had something else on his mind after he scored the winning goal in the Rangers’ 3-2 upset of Class 1A No. 8 Washington Catholic in the sectional championship Wednesday night at Northeast Dubois.

“That last goal I scored was for my grandma,” he said. “I just played this game for her tonight.”

Meris Julian died of cancer in December 2011, but Lubbehusen remembers her attending matches and supporting the team.

Grandma certainly would have had plenty to cheer about Wednesday night, when Forest Park (8-8-2) eliminated an opponent that hadn’t lost in the regular season the last two years. Additionally, Washington Catholic (15-1-1) beat Forest Park 5-0 earlier this season.

Tied at 2 with less than five minutes remaining, Lubbehusen ran down a pass that skipped across the field and launched a high-arcing shot from the right side of the top of the 18-yard box.

The ball’s trajectory couldn’t have been more perfect, with Lubbehusen recording a goal with 4:17 remaining after the ball scooted into the upper left-hand corner of the goal.

Lubbehusen was so overwhelmed he couldn’t describe the play, or what it meant to win a sectional title his senior year. All he could recall were his feelings for his grandmother.

Lubbehusen wasn’t the only one flooded with memories.

Senior Adam Braunecker, who scored the Rangers’ first two goals — giving his team leads of 1-0 and 2-1 — recalled watching Forest Park win its first sectional title in 2009. He was a spectator on that day three years ago, and the team received additional inspiration by recently watching the 2009 title match.

“Whenever somebody wins a sectional, whether you’re on the bench or you’re playing, you want to win another one,” Braunecker said. “It’s just natural.”

He enjoyed a much more prominent role Wednesday.

He scored off an assist from Ben Englert with 28:33 left in the first half, giving Forest Park an early lead that “was huge,” he said. “Our emotions and everything just shot to the roof, we were on the top of the world at that time.”

Later in the opening half, Braunecker pinged a shot that first hit off the bottom of the crossbar. The ball’s momentum carried it into the goal and the Rangers owned a 2-1 lead at intermission.

Washington Catholic tied the contest at 1 with a Colton Reed goal nearly halfway through the first half and again in the second half with 17:50.

Reed scorched the Rangers with four goals in the regular season. Wednesday night, Forest Park coach Brent Sicard sicced sophomore Cole Henke on Reed for the entire game, telling Henke to stay no more than an arm’s length away the whole time.

Henke harassed Reed, shadowing him nonstop. Sicard held off making adjustments in the second half in the teams’ regular-season matchup, figuring it’d be best to employ adjustments if and when the teams matched up again.

The gameplan was weeks in the making.

“I wanted it this way,” Sicard said of playing the Cardinals. “After the thrashing they gave us at home on senior night, I’ve been looking toward this game since that point.”

Braunecker, one of the team’s three seniors, called the night “amazing, words can’t really describe it.”

His coach agreed.

“To believe that they had a chance, to believe that they could come out and do it and for them to get it — these three seniors especially, because they were freshman on that last one, they were watching it from the sideline — they just wanted to taste one of their own, so it was good to see,” Sicard said.

Sicard and Braunecker also highlighted the team’s defensive effort, including the play of goalkeeper Blake Altmann, who made his last save with 1:25 remaining when Christian Neace blasted a free kick that looked on-target. Altmann jumped at the last second, deflecting Washington Catholic’s best attempt of tying the contest.

“It’s surreal,” Altmann said. “Since the last goal it was heart-thumping, nonstop pressure, nothing like it before.”

“To have a guy that can finish like that means all the world to wrapping up a sectional championship,” Sicard said of Altmann.

Everything was particularly special after how the Rangers’ last two seasons ended, Sicard said.

Two years ago, Forest Park lost to Heritage Hills on penalty kicks in the sectional championship, then fell to Northeast Dubois 1-0 in a first-round matchup last season.
New year. New outcome. And one that the Rangers will remember forever.

“I’ll never forget it,” Altmann said of winning the title. “This is the best team ever.”

Forest Park will battle Sullivan or South Knox at 6 p.m. EDT in next Thursday’s regional semifinals at Gibson Southern. The regional championship is set for Saturday, Oct. 13.

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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