MIDDLEBURY — After what happened during the regular season, Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial weren't considered favorites in quarterfinal action Tuesday at the Northridge Class 3A boys soccer sectional.
But with much more at stake, both played inspired soccer, with the Blue Blazers coming away with a 2-1 win over Penn, and the Crimson Chargers coming up just short in a 1-0 loss to Goshen.
Elkhart Central (9-8-1) faces Goshen (10-6-1) today in semifinal action around 7 p.m. During the regular season, the Blue Blazers blanked the RedHawks, 2-0.
In the first semifinal at 5 p.m., defending sectional champion Northridge (14-2-2) plays Concord (10-4-2). The Raiders and Minutemen finished tied at 2 in regular season play.
The Blue Blazers spoiled Penn's re-appearance at the Elkhart County sectional and ended the Kingsmen eight-year streak of winning sectionals.
Central, which last won a sectional title in 2012, avenged a 4-2 loss at the hands of Penn during the regular season.
"I think it's a great win for our program," said Blue Blazers coach Sherwin Simon. "This sectional is always a tough sectional. I don't think Warsaw or Penn understand how tough this sectional is and what this means to the schools that are usually in it. It's a different season for all the teams in the sectional."
Bryan Ramirez had numerous opportunities to score for the Blue Blazers on Tuesday and two of his shots he hit the back of the net.
Behind Ramirez's right leg, Central struck fast against Penn, as Ramirez scored from 25 yards with 38:16 left in the first half.
Ramirez came through again late and prevented overtime. His second goal gave the Blue Blazers a 2-1 lead with 2:35 remaining. Naieem Bean passed the ball to Ramirez in open space and the Central senior from five yards out was able to kick the ball into the left corner of the net.
"We're going to go as he goes," Simon said about Ramirez. "He's a great player. We just want to put him in situations where he can be successful and he was tonight."
Penn tied the match at 1 after getting a penalty kick goal from David Ross with 20:23 left in the match.
Simon was asked if he agreed with the foul on his player that set up that penalty kick.
"It was a foul," the Blazers' coach said. "The (Penn) guy got through and our guy caught his leg."
Simon felt his team was better equipped to beat Penn on Tuesday. The loss to the Kingsmen came less than a week ago.
"Honestly, the biggest difference were the guys that we played," Simon said. "We knew that we were going to be playing them here tonight. It so happened that it was our senior night and a lot of our seniors aren't usually starters and they started in that game. There was a difference in personnel and we played a different formation."
Kingsmen coach Kyle Zaber was disappointed that his team didn't create more scoring chances.
"It was nothing (Central) was doing," said Zaber said. "We didn't organize our midfield well and we didn't dominate the ball in the midfield like we normally do. It seemed like we were ball chasing, as opposed to dictating the play. Elkhart Central worked hard and took advantage of all the space we allowed them to have."
In the second match, Memorial didn't look like the same team that fell to Goshen, 6-0, during the regular season.
A shorthanded Chargers squad stayed close because of their defense.
The Redhawks lone goal came on a shot just outside the goalie box from Cesar Valdez with 30:25 left in the match.
"We lost to them 6-0 during the regular season and made it a 1-0 game," said Memorial coach Todd Sheely.
"You could see our No. 2 player (Christian Banuelos) out there basically playing with one leg. He hurt his hamstring a couple weeks back. We also had two other kids out from injuries suffered in the Elkhart Central game (on Oct. 1). Unfortunately, we just couldn't get healthy the last week of the season.
"But, I'm proud of the boys. I can't say anything bad about their effort. We gave ourselves a chance here at the end with a couple of shots. We knew the plan that we had to do and I thought we executed the best that we could."
Anchoring the Crimson Chargers' defense was goalie Bryan Guerrero, who finished with seven saves. Goshen finished with an 18-3 shots on goal advantage.
Goshen played without head coach Viratham Mounsithiraj. Filling in for him was assistant Josh Snyder.
"He had something come up so he's out for now," said Snyder about Mounsithiraj. "He should be back with us shortly."
Snyder was disappointed about his team's inability to finish after getting good scoring opportunities.
"I was proud, especially, of our wide guys getting the ball into the box and creating some good chances," Snyder said. "Something that has kind of plagued us all year is not finishing after creating good chances. We wanted more goals, but we were able to slide by with one and we'll keep moving forward."
IHSAA NORTHRIDGE SECTIONAL
ELKHART CENTRAL 2, PENN 1
E - Bryan Ramirez (German Mendivil assist) 39th minute.
P - David Ross (penalty kick) 60th.
E - Ramirez (Naieem Bean) 78th.
Shots on goal: Central 12, Penn 9. Goalie saves: Central (Carlos Alvarado) 2; Penn (Nathan Blosser 3). Corner kicks: Penn 6, Central 4.
Records: Central 9-8, Penn 9-7-1.
GOSHEN 1, ELKHART MEMORIAL 0
G - Cesar Valdez 50th minute.
Shots on goal: Goshen 18, Memorial 3. Goalie saves: Memorial (Bryan Guerrero) 7; Goshen (Fernando Salazar) 3. Corner kicks: Goshen 11, Memorial 1.
Records: Goshen 10-6-1, Memorial 6-9-2.