Rangers headed to sectional championship

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Forest Park junior Leah Dilger (11) controls the ball Thursday at the South Spencer sectional against the host Rebels. It was her goal with 4:43 left in double overtime that put the Rangers ahead for good, and Forest Park will play in Saturday's championship

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

ROCKPORT — They took the field late this season because their whole team was in quarantine and many of their games got cancelled. Some wouldn't have believed it if somebody told them during the quarantine that they would be playing in the sectional championship game, but on Saturday, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Forest Park will meet North Posey in the title game of Sectional 48 at South Spencer after the Rangers (10-5) got the better end of a double overtime thriller, 2-1, against the host Rebels on Thursday.

The Rangers couldn't score in the first half, trailed, 1-0, and tied it with 17:18 to play in the second half, and they owe their sectional title game berth largely to one of their players who was quarantined not once, but twice.

Junior Leah Dilger and her teammates had a tough time getting anything past freshman keeper Sally Shelton of the Rebels, but a window opened and she fired, giving the Rangers their first lead of the game with 4:43 left that turned out to be the final score.

"I got a breakaway, and I was like, 'Okay,' and I just tried to make an easy pass, and I didn't shank it, and I went through a corner, easy pass and then it went," Dilger said with a chuckle.

The job wasn't finished yet, and while another goal might've been nice, Dilger knew the Rangers had to play defense to prevent the game from being tied again. They all rushed to the field and hugged one another as time ran out.

Dilger knew how "awful" it was to be quarantined twice, and remembered the advice that coach Brad Weyer gave the team that they never know when it's going to be their last game, and that goal, that moment, meant everything to her.

"I just want to win (a) sectional championship to prove that no matter what you go through, we can win," she said. "We went through a lot at the beginning of the season, and if we would win, that would just show that we can do anything."

Weyer never got his hopes up too high during the season, and remained cautiously optimistic throughout. The feeling of being there and enjoying the moment was surreal to him.

"Obviously, it's not under the best circumstances, we got a couple more quarantined again, but the team showed great resolve tonight," Weyer said. "We got down early in the second half, and we showed great poise and didn't panic, and we came out here and finished the job."

The Rangers got out in front and controlled the ball often, but Shelton stopped everything until junior Payton Dilger's game-tying penalty kick goal with 17:18 to play in regulation. Payton went down to injury with 6:14 left to go in double overtime, but Weyer hadn't spoken to her at the time he talked to the Herald, and didn't have an update on her status.

Weyer gave credit to the South Spencer defense, but he wants his players to finish in the attacking third, where he felt they struggled.

"Our passing's got to be a little tighter, our finishing has to be tighter, but overall, I'm just happy to get out of here with a win," he said.

"We won my freshman year, and it was the best feeling in the world," Leah said. "If we would do it again, that would be an even better feeling."




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