DUNLAP — Neither Northridge nor Concord came close to fielding the lineup in the Concord Sectional boys soccer championship that their coaches could’ve imagined before this season, but both clawed into this final anyway.
And perhaps it just ultimately came down to the Raiders having gobs more time to adjust to their setbacks than the Minutemen.
Northridge — on the heels of losing at least three anticipated starters to either out-of-state transfer or simply deciding not to come out — outlasted a suddenly gutted Concord club 1-0 by virtue of winning a seven-round, sudden-death shootout 6-5 on Saturday, Oct. 12, as about 700 hyped-up fans watched.
The Minutemen were playing minus star Drew Wysong, his fellow goal-scoring co-team leader in Julio Solano and Henry Zelaya. Wysong was lost in Wednesday’s win over Memorial to a hip injury, Solano just a week earlier to a broken fibula and Zelaya had a hamstring injury.
“To come in here and know you’re that beat up physically and don’t have some of your players, they really left it all on the field and did a terrific job,” Woodworth said of Concord after his own team clinched on goalkeeper Philip Keller’s second save of the shootout.
Woodworth also heaped praise upon his own side.
“We had to work through some of that stuff before the season, but I’m telling you what, the senior leadership we’ve gotten off this team has been tremendous,” the 23rd-year coach said upon capturing his seventh sectional title in the last 13 years. “Our five seniors, they’re good friends on and off the field, they work for each other. It’s not the most talented team we’ve ever had, but we’ve probably played as close to our potential as any team we’ve had, and that’s all you can ask.”
The No. 18-ranked Raiders (13-3-3) earned a Mishawaka Regional semifinal spot opposite Penn (11-4-4) on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Baker Park. Host Northridge beat the Kingsmen 2-0 in each team’s season opener eight weeks ago.
The Minutemen closed at 12-4-1.
“You look at how banged up we were,” Concord coach Shawn McCuen said, “and to go in and play the way we did, and hold Northridge to zero-zero, and lose by one in a shootout, my hat goes off to my boys. We’ve had a fabulous season, a phenomenal season. We didn’t put a trophy in our box, but we filled it with a lot of life lessons, and nobody can take that from us. I was very pleased with how these boys stepped up and fought and believed.”
The Raiders had done something similar in response to their preseason departures.
“We were disappointed in what happened,” team captain Steven Hooley said, “but it wasn’t going to stop us. We were going to keep going no matter what. Some of those players would’ve helped us out for sure, but we got here.”
Northridge built up the better opportunities in Saturday’s championship — including Hunter Hardin blasting a shot hard off the post one time and skimming it another — but couldn’t finish through 80 minutes of regulation and 14 more of overtime.
“I thought we were going to score a couple, but it never came,” Hooley said. “Our runs were good, but we didn’t connect, but I also felt sure we’d win in the PKs with (Keller).”
After all, the junior keeper already had lifted the Raiders into the final by saving two of four shootout shots against No. 13 Goshen earlier in the week.
In the final, he saved one through the initial five rounds — as did the Minutemen’s Anthony Saleh — to set up the sudden-death portion.
In the second round of sudden death, after the Raiders’ Ryan Haarar converted his kick, Keller made another save, and was mobbed by teammates.
“I had a feeling on that last one,” Keller said. “I just trusted my instincts.”
“You got a goalkeeper who’s capable, very confident and covers the space he does,” Woodworth said of the 6-foot-3 1/2 Keller with a 6-6 wing span, “you gotta feel good. But it’s two-sided. Concord buried some of those shots, and so did we, and I think the pressure is always on the kicker, because he’s expected to score in that situation.”
2A Concord Sectional
Northridge 1, Concord 0
(Northridge won PK shootout 6-5 in 7 rounds)
Shots on goal: Northridge 10, Concord 5. Saves: Northridge — Philip Keller 5; Concord — Anthony Saleh 8. Corners: Northridge 6, Concord 2.
Shootout goals: (7 rounds, including 2 sudden death) Northridge — Hunter Hardin, Bailey Kaplon, Brandon Nixon, Trent Brickner, Scout Burnstine, Ryan Haarar; Concord — Logan Miller, Jared Long, Fernando Cervantes, Edson Pineda, Paco Ocampo.
Records: Northridge 13-3-3, Concord 12-4-1.
Next: Northridge vs. Penn in 2A Mishawaka Regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 17, at Baker Park, 5 p.m.; followed by Warsaw (12-2-5) vs. SB St. Joseph (12-5); championship at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19.