WARSAW -- Northridge's seniors went down, and out, the same way they achieved 17 wins this boys soccer season -- together.
With 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the game and his team trailing Carroll of Fort Wayne 2-0, Raider coach Todd Woodworth removed all 10 field seniors simultaneously at Saturday's Warsaw Semistate semifinal. He removed senior goalkeeper Derrick Giddens a moment later.
And a moment after that, the winningest season in program history was over with a 2-0 loss to the 14th-ranked Chargers.
"That's always a tough call to make -- when do you throw in the towel? -- and I suppose there might be some critics that say, 'Man, Coach, you're giving up too soon,'" Woodworth said of the mass substitution.
"But to be down 2-0 in a soccer game to an excellent team with three minutes left, that's a tough mountain to climb," Woodworth said. "We hadn't scored in 77 minutes, and it was a good opportunity to get those guys out together, and a good opportunity to get some other kids (into a semistate). Our goal is always to get back here, but you never know if it's going to happen."
The No. 17-rated Raiders (17-5-1) fell despite a second half in which Woodworth felt his team dominated the first 30 minutes or so, and despite having nine shots on goal for the day to Carroll's seven.
And they fell on a morning that showed inches really do matter sometimes.
The Chargers (18-3-1) scored 19 minutes into the game when Ian Jefferies' shot deflected off a goal post and went in.
Among Northridge's handful of prime chances at the equalizer, Andy Morrison poked a header with 10 minutes remaining, compliments of Steven Alvarado's corner kick, that hit the crossbar and sailed over.
That miss appeared to deflate the Raiders a bit, and with 6:01 remaining in the game, Carroll added an insurance goal by Gavin Downs off a soft corner kick that skipped by a couple Northridge defenders.
"There's basically nothing you can say that's going to totally take away the pain and the finality of it for all the seniors," said Woodworth, who started all 12th-graders this season, with two more coming off the bench in key roles, "but they can certainly walk away with their heads held high. We didn't play as well as we could have that first half, but we did come back that second half and played more confident, more aggressive, possessed the ball a lot and created some good opportunities. We showed a bit more of what we're capable of."
One senior starter, defender Ross Jones, went out for the remainder of the match just 12 minutes in when he injured his ankle while making a spectacular compensation save on a would-be goal after Giddens had been induced out of the net.
"He sure did save the game at the time," Woodworth said of Jones. "It's just unfortunate he wasn't able to return."
A sentiment that applies to a whole lot of Raiders now.
CARROLL 2, NORTHRIDGE 0
C -- Ian Jefferies (Colson Wagoner assist) 19th minute.
C -- Gavin Downs (Sam Didion) 74th.
Shots on goal: Carroll 7, Northridge 9. Goalie saves: Carroll -- Cody Schweitzer 8; Northridge -- Derrick Giddens 4, Connor Hahn 0. Corner kicks: Carroll 2, Northridge 5.
Other semifinal: Warsaw 4, Pendleton Heights 0.
Championship: Warsaw 2, Carroll 0.
Records: Warsaw 20-2-1, Carroll 18-4-1, Northridge 17-5-1, Pendleton Heights 9-12.
Next: Warsaw in State Finals Saturday at Kuntz Stadium, Indianapolis.