MISHAWAKA — Hunter Hardin caused a busy weekend for himself with his efforts in the Class 2A Mishawaka Regional boys soccer semifinals.
But the two-fall-sport Northridge junior won’t complain. He’s missed enough time already.
Hardin scored two goals in the final 6:55 as the rolling Raiders broke a 1-1 deadlock and beat Penn 3-1 on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Baker Park.
No. 18-ranked Northridge — 9-0-1 over its last 10 games to go with 14-3-3 overall — advanced to Saturday’s 7 p.m. final against ninth-ranked Northern Lakes Conference rival Warsaw (13-2-5), a team the Raiders beat 1-0 earlier this month on none other than a Hardin goal in a contest shortened by about nine minutes due to lightning.
But before Hardin plays in the rematch, he’ll be kicking Friday night for the Northridge football team at Elkhart Memorial.
Hardin missed both some football and five boys soccer games from Sept. 12-28 with a stress fracture in his right foot.
“I believe so,” Hardin said Thursday of whether he’s 100 percent now. “It was difficult sitting out, but I didn’t want to come back and reinjure it. So I sat out the time.”
“I still think he’s finding his way,” Raider soccer coach Todd Woodworth said. “You go out for five games in the last third of the season, it’s hard to get yourself back on track, but tonight we saw a little more of what we saw all year before the injury. I think maybe he is finding himself again a little bit.”
Besides the two goals he scored Thursday to give him a team-leading 13 on the fall, Hardin also assisted on Trent Brickner’s tally that put Northridge up 1-0 late in the first half.
“We knew we would have to come out harder than them, because we knew they would come out hard,” Hardin said, referring to the Raiders’ 2-0 win over Penn in the season opener. “You could just feel it in the air that the atmosphere for this game was different.”
The Kingsmen (11-5-4) knotted the count at 1-all on Edson Zamora’s rebound goal seven minutes into the second half, but then never mounted a serious threat again.
“I’m proud of how we played tonight, and mostly proud of how we didn’t panic when (Penn) scored the equalizer,” Woodworth said. “I almost felt like there was a little bit of energy spark there, like the momentum was switching back our way, like the kids were not going to let that happen again.”
After needing penalty-kick shootout sessions to claim Concord Sectional victories of 2-1 and 1-0 over No. 13-rated Goshen and the host Minutemen last week, Northridge was determined not to let a game stretch that far for a third straight time, even with reliable Philip Keller in goal.
“You always want to avoid PKs when you can, just because you never totally know what’s going to happen,” Hardin said. “It’s good to finish it.”
Hardin’s tie-breaking goal with 6:55 left finished off a frenzied Raider close-range, three-shot flurry against Kingsman keeper William Dorsch. Then he settled a pass from Corbin Bullock and left-footed in a 15-yarder for insurance at 2:10 showing.
“They play small (ball) very well, they’re very technically sound, they’re pretty disciplined offensively, have some good movement off the ball and they spread you out the length of the field,” Penn coach Ryan Leniski said of Northridge. “I thought we started to deal with that pretty well, especially after the break, but unfortunately, it came down to a couple plays at the end.”
Other then the back-to-back shots that produced the Kingsmen’s goal, the Raiders never allowed a particularly dangerous shot by Penn all night and have now allowed just two goals over their last five games.
“Our defense hasn’t gotten caught out of balance very much this year,” Woodworth said. “Besides that goal (sequence), we allowed one shot the second half against a very good team that plays hard and works hard.”
Warsaw will be shooting for a sixth straight regional title Saturday, one short of the state record, while Northridge will be seeking its first since 2010. The winner moves into the two-round Warsaw Semistate on Saturday, Oct. 26.
2A Mishawaka Regional
Northridge 3, Penn 1
N — Trent Brickner (Hunter Hardin assist) 35th minute.
P — Edson Zamora (unassisted) 47th.
N — Hardin (unassisted) 74th.
N — Hardin (Corbin Bullock) 78th.
Shots on goal: Northridge 8, Penn 6. Saves: Northridge — Philip Keller 5; Penn — William Dorsch 5. Corners: Northridge 3, Penn 2.
Other semifinal: Warsaw 2, SB St. Joseph 1 (Warsaw wins in shootout, 5-4).
Records: Northridge 14-3-3, Penn 11-5-4, Warsaw 13-2-5, St. Joseph 12-6.
Next: Northridge vs. Warsaw in Mishawaka Regional championship Saturday, Oct. 19 at Baker Park, 7 p.m.