ELKHART — Those reverberating warbirds that were part of an air show Saturday at the nearby Elkhart Municipal Airport — and that were frequently flying overhead during the Class 2A Elkhart Sectional boys soccer championship — had nothing on the Central Blue Blazers.
The roaring Blazers unleashed their own brand of maneuvers while flying by Concord 3-1 to advance to the Mishawaka Regional.
It didn’t matter that No. 12-ranked Central spotted the Minutemen an early 1-0 lead on a Danny Mujica free kick.
The Blazers never appeared to flinch and proceeded to dominate much of the first 70 minutes at Memorial High School.
“I didn’t think we played our best soccer Wednesday,” first-year Central coach Sherwin Simon said of his team’s late-surging, 3-0 semifinal win over Northridge, “so I really challenged the guys in practice on Thursday, and Thursday’s practice was the best we’ve had all year. These guys were ready to play. They were not ready for their season to end.”
“We knew they had high intensity and a lot of speed up top,” Concord coach Shawn McCuen said, “but we didn’t adjust and they capitalized on some opportunities.”
The Blazers improved to 15-2-1, while the Minutemen closed at 14-3-2, two of their losses to Central.
Alex Ramirez scored the equalizer late in the first half on a rebound header of a shot that struck the crossbar. It was the Blazers’ second shot off the crossbar.
Just 87 seconds into the second half, Central’s Isaias Morales put his team ahead 2-1 when he stole the ball, dribbled in slightly and left-footed a line drive home from about 35 yards.
For the Blazers, it was a relief that Morales, who was named Northern Indiana Conference MVP earlier in the week, was even in the game. The senior had crumpled to the ground, rolled in pain and grabbed near his right knee late in the first half before being helped from the field.
“At first, it felt real bad,” said Morales, who was sporting a ripped sock and bandaged cut from the injury, “but when I started playing again, it was good.”
“I don’t think he was 100 percent, but he came out and did what he does,” Simon said of Morales, who had two goals in the win over Northridge. “He’s been really special this year, has carried us when he needed to.”
Central spread the margin to 3-1 with 16:35 left when Christian Guerra headed in one of Jose Jimenez’s typically long and potent free kicks.
The Blazers finished with a decided 13-5 advantage in shots on goal and their defense never allowed a corner kick.
The Minutemen, champions of the Northern Lakes Conference, finished another banner season despite graduating nine starters, including six All-NLC selections, off last fall’s team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the boys after who we lost last year,” McCuen said. “If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the year we’d be 5-1-1 in the conference, 14-3-2 overall, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat.”
2A Elkhart Sectional
Central 3, Concord 1
Co — Danny Mujica (unassisted) 8th minute.
Ce — Alex Ramirez (Joey Himes assist) 33rd.
Ce — Isaias Morales (unassisted) 42nd.
Ce — Christian Guerra (Jose Jimenez) 64th.
Shots on goal: Central 13, Concord 5. Saves: Central — Derek Mills 4; Concord — Sergio Ortiz 8. Corners: Central 4, Concord 0.
Records: Central 15-2-1, Concord 14-3-2.
Next: Plymouth Sectional winner vs. SB St. Joseph Sectional winner, 5 p.m., followed by Central vs. SB Adams Sectional winner, approximately 7 p.m., Thursday in semifinals of Class 2A Mishawaka Regional at Baker Park; championship Saturday, 7 p.m.