By GREG MENGELT
With 22 minutes left in Thursday’s Class 2A Washington Regional semifinal, Floyd Central found itself in a familiar position.
Like it did late against Jeffersonville in last Saturday’s Class 2A Floyd Central Sectional championship, the Highlanders came through with a 3-1 victory over Terre Haute South to advance to the regional championship game on Saturday against Evansville Memorial.
The 13-3-4 Highlanders are just one victory from becoming the first Floyd Central’s first boys’ soccer regional champions.
“It’s incredible since a Floyd Central soccer team has never made it past the first game of regionals,” Highlander senior defender Varun Alse said. “That means a lot going into it.”
“It’s part of our journey,” Floyd Central coach Tim Rice said. “We have a goal of going beyond [the regional]. For now, we want to focus in on [Memorial] because that’s the next game.”
Memorial beat rival Castle 2-0 in the second semifinal to secure its spot in Saturday’s championship game, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. The Highlanders know beating the state’s third-ranked team will be a tough task.
“It’s going to be a tough fight,” Alse said. “It’s win or go home, so both teams are going to come out full energy.”
“Nobody out here wants it more than we do,” Floyd Central junior forward Henok Jones said.
Floyd Central controlled the first 60 minutes of the contest but found itself in a 1-1 deadlock midway through the second half.
With 21:44 remaining, Zach Lewis was fouled in the box. Lewis, who had missed a potential go-ahead penalty kick late in Saturday’s sectional championship, gave way to Jones.
Jones pushed his kick past South keeper Keaton Vanwey’s left side to give Floyd a 2-1 lead.
“In the Jeffersonville game, Zach got fouled [in the box] and took a bit of a knock, and he hit the ball wide,” Rice recalled. “Not that I don’t have faith in Zach kicking PKs, but we felt we’re solid with either one of them.”
“I knew I needed to make the goal,” said Jones, who admitted he approached the ball with little strategy.
Nine minutes later, Highlander sophomore Sean Brown played a Keaton Jacobi crossing pass out of the air and snuck a third goal past Vanwey for a 3-1 advantage.
“Zach Lewis was going for it and I called him off,” Brown said. “I saw my opportunity and took it out of the air. When it was 2-1, they may have still had a chance to get back into the game. When that goal went in, it put their heads down even more. That really gave us the edge.”
“He’s a special player,” Rice said of Brown. “He has great control of his body when the ball is in the air. I’ve seen him for several years make those kinds of shots.”
The Highlanders out-shot the Braves 11-4 in the second half and had nearly every advantage. Floyd forced nine corner kicks and had 13 serious scoring chances in the final 40 minutes.
“The first half, we didn’t play our style of soccer,” Rice said. “We talked at halftime that we needed to own the midfield. With that, came more opportunities in the second half and we were able to put a couple of them away.”
Early on, it looked like the Floyd may blow out the 6-9-2 Braves. While the Highlanders peppered Vanwey with shots and had several opportunities near the goal, South got almost nothing going offensively.
Six minutes into the contest, Jones scooted a pass to junior Logan Howland, who broke down the right side and beat Vanwey for an early 1-0 lead.
“Henok passed me the ball and I took two flicks on the defender and took the shot,” Howland said.
“He found himself really unmarked all the way across the field,” Rice recalled. “We didn’t think he was going to shoot. The keeper was out off his line and that gave us an opportunity to sneak one in.”
Despite dominating possession and chances for the next 30 minutes, South countered with the equalizing goal with 3:17 left before the break when Ben Magnin scored on a rebound.
“We just knew [after the South goal] that we had to start playing harder,” Brown said. “We didn’t want to let it happen again. We needed to keep our heads up and just keep going.”
For the contest, Floyd doubled the Braves’ shot total, 20-10. The Highlanders put 15 on goal to nine for South, and they had a 21-8 advantage in scoring chances.
CLASS 2A WASHINGTON REGIONAL
FLOYD CENTRAL 3, TERRE HAUTE SOUTH 1
TH South 1 0—1
Floyd Central 1 2—3
F — Logan Howland (Henok Jones), 34:07.
S — Ben Magnin (rebound), 3:17.
F — Jones (penalty kick), 21:44.
F — Sean Brown (Keaton Jacobi), 12:02.
Shots: Terre Haute South 10; Floyd Central 20.
Shots on goal: Terre Haute South 9; Floyd Central 15.
Scoring chances: Terre Haute South 8; Floyd Central 21.
Saves: Terre Haute South — Keaton Vanwey 11, Team 1; Floyd Central — Travis Foster 8.
Corner kicks: Terre Haute South 3; Floyd Central 11.
Fouls: Terre Haute South 4; Floyd Central 6.