KOKOMO – It had all the dramatics of a Hollywood script as the Argos boys soccer team will have a shot at a second straight state championship next week grabbing a semi-state title with a 4-3 double-overtime win over Heritage Christian.
From the opening kick Heritage took a page out of the Dragons book being on the attack and keeping Argos on their heels. Caleb Williams took a nice pass from David Reynolds and buried a shot for an early lead for Heritage just eight minutes in.
That goal seemed to wake up the Dragons who picked up their pace and two minutes later Devon Allen took an almost perfect crossing pass from Gabe Stone to tie it up.
Keeping the pace hot and heavy Heritage came back three minutes later to retake the lead when a great pass in front of the goal gave Noah Hamm a perfect opportunity to hit a shot at 27 minutes to take back the lead.
The Eagles missed several prime opportunities until Pinyot hit an unassisted bomb from far out on the left wing to give Heritage a two-goal lead.
Making the most of their opportunities Argos got back within one before the half when Jake Stults found himself with the ball at his feet right in front of the goal to make it 3-2.
“Heritage likes to get ahead and then salt the game away and we saw them doing that,” said Argos head coach Todd VanDerWeele. “Maybe the biggest play of the game was getting that one (goal) right before halftime. Having a one-goal deficit instead of a two-goal at halftime was huge.”
The Dragons found their personality again in the second half and made it seem like a different game, jumping to the front and forcing the action in the Heritage half of the field for the rest of the afternoon.
“We changed some things around,” said VanDerWeele of the change at halftime. “We moved Gabe (Stone) to the back that made us a little stronger in the back for some reason. Gabe had an outstanding game. Colton (Markley) on the right side and Ben Rangel gave us great minutes. Tomas (Guitierrez) didn’t have a lot of minutes but they were big. Jake Stults gave us big minutes.”
“Kaden (Nifong) played long stretches in the second half and that’s what you have to have is those seniors to play like that in games like this and that’s what he did today.”
Stults came on late in the first half and brought a renewed energy to the Dragons attack ending in his key goal at the end of the half to draw Argos within one.
“Jake played outstanding,” said VanDerWeele. “He’s a very athletic kid and he’s still learning the varsity game but he brings a lot of energy, he gets off his feet well. He about won it for us at the beginning of the first overtime.”
Mike Richard became more himself in the second half pushing the issue and scoring the tying goal on a penalty kick with 6:29 to play in regulation.
Argos Keeper Kurt Johnson made a huge save on the only real Heritage opportunity at 3:13 in the second half to push the game to overtime.
The teams slugged it out for the first and most of the second overtime and with the game heading towards penalty kicks, Mike Richard had other ideas and freed himself in front of the goal to hit the game-winner at 1:06 in overtime number two.
“In the first half, they knew where he (Richard) was,” said VanDerWeele. “I feel like you have to always attack. When you pull back you’re going to lose a guy every now and then and I think they thought they could keep him in front of 10 guys.”
“The one thing about Mike is that he attacks with pace and he’s an excellent passer and then he runs off it,” said VanDerWeele. “You can’t just think he’s got a pass off or a shot off and he’s done. He stays with the play. And we were able to get him the ball more and he was a threat to them.”
“They (Heritage) came ready to play today,” said VanDerWeele. “We have to get used to the fact that we were able to win the state championship last year so everyone wants to beat us. It’s a respect thing. I appreciate that.”
“We finished the polls #1. We have to be tougher than that. Those are things that we are going to have to work on next week because we don’t want to get down 3-1 in the championship game.”
The #1 ranked Dragons (18-3-1) will defend their title against Providence (16-3) on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Fishers High School.
*ARGOS 4, HERITAGE CHRISTIAN 3
at Kokomo – Semi State
Heritage Christian – Caleb Williams 8th
Argos – Devon Allen (Gabe Stults) 10th
Heritage Christian – Noah Hamm 13th
Heritage Christian – Justin Pinyot 24th
Argos – Jake Stults (Caden Nifong) 38th
Argos – Mike Richard (PK) 74th
Argos – M. Richard 93rd
Shots on goal: Argos-8, Heritage Christian-4
Saves: Argos-1 (Kurt Johnson), Heritage Christian-4 (Ryan Cornwell)
Record: Argos 18-3-1