Let’s get physical: Jeeps win openerOctober 3, 2017
By COLIN LIKAS
DUBOIS — An ambulance sat just beyond the Northeast Dubois soccer field’s east fence Monday, a precaution that comes with hosting boys postseason action. Luckily, no paramedics were required during either of the evening’s two Class 1A sectional quarterfinal matches.
But if the physicality displayed by 1A No. 8 Northeast Dubois and North Posey reached Jeep goaltender Lucas Gutgsell, the senior was ready to dive right in — even if it meant the vehicle would be put into action.
“I was a little bit worried (about the physicality), but you can’t think about that whenever you’re in the middle of a game,” Gutgsell said. “I’ve got that adrenaline rush going on. If I get taken out, there’s an ambulance that can take me to the hospital.”
Northeast Dubois’ postseason aspirations didn’t need life support in a 5-1 victory over North Posey that played much more like a 0-0 tie throughout. Aggressive activity led to three yellow cards in the second half and included both sides continuing to put shots on net within the final minute of play.
“Usually in (the) sectional, everything is more physical, and we expected that because we don’t know the team, we didn’t play them in-season,” said Jeep senior Alan Kerstiens, who netted a hat trick for the Jeeps (14-2-1). “The sectional is always like this, rough and tough. It’s fun.”
There was nothing malicious between Northeast Dubois and North Posey (4-9-3), but each team’s desire to ensure at least one more game dominated every move made on the pitch.
“We talked about focus and intensity. Those were important things for us because, when you play like that, we do a lot of good stuff,” Jeep coach Clive Williams said. “And I think that showed today, particularly in the second half.”
Northeast Dubois got off to the best possible start by finding the back of the net just 1:02 into the contest. A Brandon Merkel free kick was bobbled by Viking goaltender Carter Martin before being headed home by Kerstiens for the early 1-0 advantage.
“That’s what the whole team needed, and that’s what got me going,” Kerstiens said after increasing his team-leading goal total to 33. “Just looking for the open spaces to score is what we needed.”
But North Posey, playing beyond its record throughout the night, evened the ledger just over nine minutes in when Tanner Tichenor converted a penalty kick earned after a Northeast Dubois hand ball in the box.
The deadlock didn’t last long, as Kerstiens snuck to the far side of North Posey’s net on a Merkel corner kick eight minutes later and deposited the ball once more. For the remainder of the opening half, the Vikings responded by forcing Gutgsell to make one sprawling save after another. Each time, he came up with the ball.
“They were throwing everything they had at us. Even the books. Even the math books,” Gutgsell said. “The only way I thought we could get by was our defense. Our back line was very strong tonight.”
The goaltender said there is still work to be done in that regard — pointing to the Jeep defenders’ penchant for jumping in on offense, and potentially leaving Gutgsell exposed to the opposition, as one area for focus.
Williams said he felt his team stayed within itself and didn’t get sucked into the Vikings’ game plan.
“I knew this team was a defensive team, shall we say. They’re very aggressive in some respects,” he said. “I think the first half ... we get our momentum, and the second half we usually get into our swing of the game.”
Kerstiens completed his hat trick about 13 minutes into the latter period after Martin raced too far from his crease to grab an incoming ball. Kerstiens beat a North Posey defender and tapped the ball over the goalkeeper’s head, watching it roll into the net for a 3-1 Jeep edge.
“I think in the past, he’s not read that (play) very well,” Williams said. “I think today he read those things well in terms of the defender that was there.”
Jake Betz tallied his first non-penalty goal of the season later in the second half, threading two defenders and beating Martin despite falling to the ground almost simultaneously. Merkel capped the scoring on a corner that Martin batted into his own net.
In an odd twist, the Jeeps were technically the road team in this match as a result of the sectional draw. But that didn’t stop a rowdy group of supporters from getting behind Northeast Dubois’ plays, both big and small.
“When you have this many people come out, it’s always a good feeling,” said Kerstiens, referencing a crowd that included members of Northeast Dubois’ girls soccer and volleyball teams. “That’s what we need. We need people cheering us on, and that helps the whole team a lot, actually.”
The Jeep boys likely can expect a similar atmosphere when they take on South Spencer (6-8-2) in a semifinal match Wednesday — this time as the true home team. The Rebels staved off Wood Memorial 2-1 in Monday’s earlier quarterfinal bout.
Northeast Dubois pulled out a 3-1 victory in Rockport earlier this season, but Williams said his team is expecting hard-nosed effort from South Spencer despite the previous result.
Gutgsell echoed that sentiment in a unique way — by switching from algebra and geometry to a little bit of literature and language.
“During the regular season we beat them, but I think they’re going to throw all the books at us,” he said. “Probably the English book this time.”
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