Rangers edge Jeeps in penalty kicks

Photos by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Forest Park sophomore midfielder Carter Hinson gets in position to kick the ball upfield during Wednesday evening's contest against Northeast Dubois in Dubois.


DUBOIS — As the Northeast Dubois (9-6-1) and Forest Park (7-9-1) boys soccer teams began the second half of Wednesday evening’s Sectional 48 tilt, the Jeeps and Rangers provided some fireworks on the pitch. Two rapid-fire goals set the stage for an action-packed conclusion to the game.

For the second consecutive contest, Northeast Dubois needed penalty kicks to decide the outcome. The score was tied at 2-2 after regulation and two overtime periods, but Forest Park secured the 6-5 victory — 4-3 in the shootout — and a sectional championship berth.

“It was anyone’s game in overtime,” Rangers head coach Mike Foerster said. “I was hoping and praying that it wouldn’t go into PKs. They’ve had experience in the tournament, Dubois has.”

With 39:45 remaining in the second half, Northeast Dubois junior midfielder Ethan Danhafer struck a homing missile from outside the box. Forest Park junior midfielder Conner Knies scored the equalizer with 38:29 left in the period.

Those tallies marked the figurative tip of the iceberg. After both teams pushed the tempo, Jeeps junior midfielder Bryce Merkel knocked in a textbook free kick with 11:26 to play.

In the final moments of regulation, the Rangers mustered a late push. With just 3:31 remaining, Forest Park junior midfielder Spenser Wolf found the back of the net and tied the score at 2-2.

“The boys never gave up,” Foerster said. “They know that we can score in a matter of seconds. They’re resilient. I’m glad they never gave up. They fought to the end, and that’s what this group is all about.”

Over the course of both seven-minute overtime periods, both squads moved the ball upfield with tactical precision. The offenses remained aggressive throughout the frames, but the defenses prevailed.

The evenly-matched shootout mirrored the prior 94 minutes of play. Forest Park freshman defender Noah Muller tallied the decisive goal.

Junior forward J.D. Kerber, sophomore midfielder Carter Hinson and sophomore defender Luke Hauser added goals for the Rangers. Foerster praised the tenacity of sophomore goalkeeper Elijah Cox.

“Our goalkeeper, he’s a first-time soccer player,” Foerster said. “Huge. Big-timer back there. He saved us. We missed several PKs there, and he came up big for us.”

Northeast Dubois junior midfielder Ethan Danhafer sprints toward the ball during Wednesday evening's game against Forest Park in Dubois.

After taking a moment to rejoice as a team, the Rangers rushed over to greet the green-clad fans in the stands.

“These boys deserve it,” Foerster said. “I’ve been saying it to them all year. We don’t win a lot, so I kind of understand why we don’t have the fan support. I’m hoping it builds now. I’m hoping people jump on the bandwagon for these guys.”

Throughout the season, Northeast Dubois demonstrated a marked improvement.

“Last year, it was flipped,” Jeeps head coach Clive Williams said. “It was 4-9. This year, we flipped it the other way around. They’ve turned the season around for us in one year. It got to a game which was close, but we didn’t win it.

“The future is there, but I think the seniors wanted to do it again,” he continued. “Usually, it’s a three-year cycle. But, it didn’t work out that way this time. They did me proud this season. They had a great season and worked hard. We didn’t get to where we wanted to. They didn’t reach their full potential, but that’s soccer. It’s a funny old game, as we say in England.”

Forest Park will compete for the sectional title at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Rangers will meet the winner of South Spencer and Wood Memorial.

At press time, the game was tied 0-0 in the second half.

“With the circumstances we needed something good to happen for us,” Foerster said. “I’m hoping that we can kind of carry that into Saturday. They’re on Cloud Nine. That’s all I can say.”

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