Ranger boys splash, dash into finale

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Forest Park’s Joel Weyer, center, celebrated a first-half goal with teammates Aaron Schuler (26) and Kyle Lubbehusen in Monday’s first round of the Class 1A soccer sectional at Dubois. The Rangers sank Shoals 7-1 and will play in Wednesday’s championship against eighth-ranked Washington Catholic. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

DUBOIS — None of the spectators gazed onto the field Monday night at Northeast Dubois High School and thought the conditions were conducive to beachwear.

Given that it rained for most of the day, causing the field to be as wet and soft as a squeegee, galoshes and a poncho definitely made sense. But flip-flops? Get out of here.

That’s exactly what Joel Weyer sported, however, after Forest Park’s boys soccer team posted a convincing 7-1 victory against Shoals in a first-round Class 1A sectional contest. The Rangers will contend with Class 1A No. 8 Washington Catholic, which downed Northeast Dubois 4-1 in the night’s other semifinal, on Wednesday evening at 6:30 in the championship.

After wading through puddles to get to the school bus after the match, Weyer retreated to the field to discuss the Rangers’ win and his first two goals of the season.

The cleats were gone. In their place was a pair of white Under Armour sandals.

The switch seemed symbolic, given Weyer and Forest Park seemed comfortable all night.

“It was a lot different to play on the field, especially when you try to kick a through ball and then it just gets stuck in the water,” Weyer said. “But it was a lot of fun playing on this field. I think it gave us a lot of energy. And being the more aggressive team, we fought through the water and just basically had fun playing in the mud and water.”

Forest Park (7-8-2) struck for five goals in the first half. Weyer scored twice, as did Adam Braunecker. Derek Hoffman also registered a goal before intermission — the Rangers’ first score, which came when Hoffman won a race to the ball after it deadened in a puddle in front of the net — and Dakota Begle adding two long-distance scores after halftime.

Shoals (5-10-2) added its goal right before halfway through the second half, capping the scoring.

The Rangers, meanwhile, excelled at transferring practice habits into game situations, Weyer and Kyle Lubbehusen said. Forest Park coach Brent Sicard agreed.

On Weyer’s first goal, he found himself open at the top of the 18-yard box as teammate Alex Russell dribbled down the side of the field. Weyer added his second score about two minutes later when he blasted in a kick from about 15 yards out and the ball ricocheted off a defender, but it was his first score — and his ability to let Russell know he was open — that stood out.

“I was running down the middle and I saw Alex with the ball,” Weyer said. “I realized I was wide open and no one was pressuring me so I said I may as well just shoot it. It went in, so I was pretty happy about that.”

“With the first goal, we were picking up the talking a lot,” Lubbehusen added. “After that it carried over to where we had a lot more talking.”

In addition to Russell, Braunecker and Begle, Austin Bromm and Spenser Sermersheim each added an assist for the Rangers.

Forest Park’s vocalization was especially important, Sicard said, after the Rangers stumbled through a six-game losing streak over the latter part of the season. Even in their 3-2 win against Pike Central on Saturday, the Rangers’ play leveled off after collaring an early lead, Sicard said. He talked like he knew he had the better team going into Monday night. He wanted the scoreboard to reflect that.

“We ended up with a battle on our hands and I didn’t want that to happen tonight,” Sicard said. “I said we’ve got to push from the beginning and we were moving the ball well for the conditions of the field. To finish right away and then to continue to put the pressure on them was a big thing for us tonight.

“To put five away in the first half was huge and I think taking advantage of the good side in the first half was something I really wanted.”

Forest Park matched its season-high scoring output, and despite losing to Washington Catholic 5-0 in the regular season, Weyer sounded upbeat about the Rangers’ chances this time around. They just need to equal the energy and enthusiasm they created Monday night.

“The intensity and playing hard and talking will definitely have to transfer over to Wednesday night,” Weyer said.

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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