Castle's second half breakthrough eliminates Cats

Photo by Sam Owens/Evansville Courier & Press
Castle’s Joseph Kerney (7) trips over Jasper’s Evan Leuck (4) while fighting for possession of the ball during the IHSAA Class 3A sectional championship at Castle High School in Newburgh, Ind., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. The Knights defeated the Wildcats 1-0 as a second-half goal from Castle was enough to send them on to the regional and eliminate Jasper.


NEWBURGH — Jasper coach Kyle Kendall acknowledged that the search for redemption was a bit of a factor going into Saturday’s sectional championship match against the Castle Knights.

The Wildcats lost to the Knights 1-0 in last season’s sectional final, and played them close in their regular season meeting before falling short in another game decided by one goal.

So this time, Kendall knew his team had the talent and skill to compete with Castle (13-4, 5-2), and the game could come down to which team found an opening first.

Unfortunately, the story played out like it did last season, with the Wildcats (12-5, 5-1) dropping a tight affair with the Knights 1-0 in the sectional final.

Despite the loss, Kendall said the boys played what he called their finest game of the season.

“I felt at halftime we were right where we wanted to be,” he said. “We were putting them under pressure and it was just a matter of time before we put one in. (Castle) got a bounce there midway through the (second) half, put one in, but left us 24 minutes to tie it up. We threw everything we had at them, unfortunately we just didn’t quite find it.”

The first half was a lesson in drama for everyone involved. The Wildcats and the Knights were both aggressive in trying to move the ball up the field on each other and create shooting lanes in the box. Both teams only managed to get a few shots on each other’s goals however, and the keepers stepped up each time which caused the first half to end at a 0-0 tie.

The gridlock continued into the second half, as each shot would send either the Jasper or Castle fan section gasping for air as they rose to their feet from the anticipation. But finally one of the teams broke past the wall. Senior striker Brock Wandel made his way to the top of the penalty area and with a little over 25 minutes left to play, knocked one just past Wildcats junior goalie Quentin Harmon to score the deciding goal of the game.

Jasper did all they could to even the score, but the Knights packed in and swarmed the net to prevent and redirect shots on goal. Any shots that managed to be taken were accounted for by sophomore goalie Nigel Stoltz.

It was an emotional scene after the game, as the players comforted each other and their parents after finishing as the runner-up for the fall. But Kendall said this year was still a special one for the team and thanked his seniors everything they gave to the soccer program.

“These kids had a tough year last year, and a lot of these guys had to learn on the job last year as juniors,” he said. “Those seniors stepped in to lead this year, and really got us back on track. To rattle off 11 wins in a row, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing those are big wins.”

Senior midfielder Austin Rawlins said he’ll never forget playing with this team and says that with time they’ll look back on all they accomplished this year as a fond memory.

“I’ll never forget the five other seniors who have played with me all four years and given me everything they had,” he said. “I’d like to think they’d say the same thing about me. I’ll remember this season for going on that run. Giving it all in the end, we’re never going to complain about this game and we’ll always look on this season in a good light.”

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