Ranger, Jeep boys to vie for sectional championship

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Forest Park's Josh Epple, left, celebrated with teammate Braxton Sicard after Sicard scored a goal in the first half of Forets Park's sectional game against Tell City Wednesday evening in Dubois. Forest Park defeated Tell City 7-0. For more photos from the match, click here.



DUBOIS — Northeast Dubois and Forest Park will face each other for a Class 1A boys soccer sectional championship after winning their semifinal games in dominant fashion Wednesday night.

The 1A No. 8 Jeeps (15-2-1) were able to hold off a second-half rally to defeat South Spencer 5-2. They had previously beaten the Rebels (6-9-2) on Sept. 5 by a 3-1 margin.

Alan Kerstiens got things started for the Jeep offense by finding Forest Park’s net at the 37-minute mark, which was followed by a Trevor Seufert goal shortly after.

Kerstiens added what would eventually serve as the winning goal later in the first half and also contributed an assist. He credited his team’s solid passing for putting him in position to affect the outcome of the game.
“We have good connections,” he said. “Our team has played good all year. Those good connections and knowing where each other are (on the field) is perfect.”

He also acknowledged Northeast Dubois was not as sharp in the second half of the game. After two quick goals by Rebel seniors Collin Stewart and Mason Durnil made the score 3-2 early in the latter period, the Jeeps were able to flip the switch and stuff the South Spencer’s comeback attempt.

“I knew they were going to come hard. I knew they were going to start picking it up,” Kerstiens said. “We picked ourselves back up. As soon as we picked our game up, we came back and scored two more.”

Brandon Merkel, who netted an insurance goal with 16 minutes to play, said he realized his team needed a boost when he found himself in the right place and put the contest out of reach for South Spencer.

“I had my back to the goal, and I knew we needed a goal,” he said. “So I just turned, saw the corner open and I hit it.”  

Chase Reckelhoff scored the final goal for the Jeeps to ice the contest.

After the game, Northeast Dubois coach Clive Williams acknowledged his players have had a tough week — with one more sectional game on the docket. But he gave his boys kudos for fighting through fatigue and finding the resolve they needed Wednesday.

“They said their legs were sore,” he said. “But they keep digging it out. We took our foot off the gas for a little bit. But they went up another gear again, which is what I would expect from them.”

Williams said he wants to spend the next few days practicing passing so the Jeeps don’t have to work so hard to move the ball around the field. But he is encouraged by the fighting spirit his players displayed and believes the test South Spencer gave them will serve them well in Saturday’s sectional final against Forest Park.

“I know how much they want this. I know how much the fans want this,” Williams said. “Every game we want to get a little bit better. Today, we got a little bit better and showed another side to ourselves.”

There would not be as much drama in the second semifinal, as Forest Park notched a 7-0 shutout of Tell City. It was a rematch of an Aug. 29 contest the Rangers took by a 3-1 margin.

Hunter Helming led Forest Park (4-12) with a hat trick and was complemented by two strikes from Noah Hawkins and one apiece from Braxton Sicard and Zach Hopf against the Marksmen (0-13).

After the game, which the Rangers led 6-0 through 40 minutes, Hawkins said Forest Park is going to work on maintaining possession in Saturday’s final to counter the aggressive playing style of Northeast Dubois. He thinks the Rangers have come far enough as a unit to give the Jeeps real trouble in the championship game.

“I think we’ve taken big strides from the beginning of the season until now,” he said. “I think we progressed a lot, and (I) think we could have a good chance if we play together on Saturday.”

Helming said the team is going to be working on defense and play around the net ahead of its rematch with Northeast Dubois, who the Rangers dropped a 3-0 decision against on Sept. 11. Helming also said he’s hopeful for some payback as Forest Park tries to score a state-ranked upset.

“They have two guys that can get the ball in the back of the net pretty easily,” Helming said of Kerstiens and Merkel. “They beat us earlier in the year and we want redemption.”

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