MIDDLEBURY — It's becoming a memorable final season for the Elkhart Central boys soccer program.
The Blue Blazers, who will combine with Elkhart Memorial next fall and become Elkhart High School, posted a dramatic 2-1 penalty kick shootout win over Goshen Wednesday in Class 3A sectional semifinal action at Northridge High School.
Central (10-8) advances to play defending sectional champion Northridge (14-2-2) for the sectional championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Blue Blazers, who last won a sectional title in 2012, lost to the Raiders, 3-0, on August 22nd.
Northridge advanced into the finals after beating Concord, 3-1, on Wednesday.
"My heart was jumping out of my chest," said Central coach Sherwin Simon about his mood when entering penalty kicks. "I absolutely hate PK's. I've never had luck with them. In my eight years this was our first shootout at sectionals. My emotions are a little bit all over the place right now."
The Blue Blazers ended with a 4-3 edge in PK's, with the win being sealed after Central goalie Carlos Alvarado stopped Goshen's fifth shot, which was taken by Nehemias Gallegos.
Central got made PK's from German Mendivil, Naieem Bean, Bryan Ramirez and Bayron Garay, while Goshen got made PK's from Chris Lozano, Ricardo Garcia and Cruz Garcia. The RedHawks got a missed PK from Fernando Quevedo on the second shot. The kick went over the goal.
"Going into the PK's I thought my keeper was going to get at least one," Simon said. "I've seen him in practice and I figured that was going to happen. We just couldn't miss and had to keep (the ball) on frame. I had a lot of confidence in our keeper coming into it."
It was a frustrating ending for Goshen and its head coach Viratham Mounsithiraj, who missed Goshen's 1-0 quarterfinal win on Tuesday over Elkhart Memorial because he was just recovering from recent back surgery.
"It's a tough way to lose," said Mounsithiraj about the game being decided by PK's. "I've been through enough of those (PK's). It's 50-50 your chances of winning. You either make it or you don't. We told our guys to just put it on frame and make the keeper save it.
"I thought both teams played hard. I thought Elkhart Central was very, very tough defensively and very organized."
The Blue Blazers scored first in the match after getting a goal from Ramirez with 33:11 left in the first half. A pass from Bean set up the goal, which came five yards outside of the goal.
A little bit of luck helped the RedHawks tie the match with 23:23 left in the first half, as Chris Lozano's slowly hit ball from five yards slipped past the Central defense into the goal.
Each team had a great chance to score in the second half, but were denied. Bean's breakaway attempt from five yards was stopped by Goshen goalie Fernando Salazar almost eight minutes into the second half.
With 9:15 remaining, Alvarado stopped a shot just outside the goal box, which was attempted by Goshen's Kovan Drenth. Richardo Garcia's free kick set up the potential score.
"I thought we came out in the second half and played much better than we did in the first half," Simon said. "We just kept fighting."
In the two, seven minute overtime halves, Central had all three shots on goal. In the final seconds of the second, seven minutes, Mendivil attempted a shot just outside the goal box, which went wide left.
"Goshen's a good team, but our guys never quit," Simon said.
Simon's squad finished with a 12-5 edge on shots.
"We didn't play our game," Mounsithiraj said. "We rushed a little bit. I'm not sure if pressure was the reason that happened."
In the first semifinal, Northridge was led by Cam Chappell, who scored two second half goals.
Carter Stoltzfus assisted on both of those goals, which came from 10 and 15 yards out. The 10-yarder gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead with 28:27 left in the match.
"Cam got through and split the two defenders and went through and scored," said Concord coach Shawn McCuen's about his team's defense on Chappell's first goal.
Northridge won, despited being outshot, 8-4.
"I thought Concord played a phenomenal game," said Raiders coach Lawrence Baltazar said. "I thought (Concord) wore our mid down. We started off the game really well, but we couldn't keep that pace up. Concord stayed composed.
"We took out one of our forwards and brought back another mid just to slow (Concord) down and try to solidify things a little bit. We also moved Cam around. That might have been the difference moving Cam around."
Northridge scored first after getting a goal from Brody Gust off a direct kick from 15 yards with 33:48 left in the first half. A little luck was involved with the shot, as the ball hit the crossbar and dropped into the goal.
Concord tied the contest when senior Ariel DeLaPaz scored on a direct kick from 20 yards with 15:33 left in the match.
But that would be the last offensive highlight of the evening for the Minutemen, as Raiders' goalie Cameron Graber came through with five saves.
"We didn't do the things that we wanted to do, which was put pressure on the ball and move the ball around and play over the top," McCuen said. "We knew that their defense was going to sit back. Their tough in the back with four defenders and a goalie. You can't beat a defense that sits back like that going straight down the middle."
"Hats off to Northridge. They played hard. Unfortunately, for us, we left a lot of stuff out on the field."
IHSAA NORTHRIDGE SECTIONAL
ELKHART CENTRAL 2, GOSHEN 1 (PK Shootout)
E - Bryan Ramirez (Naieem Bean assist) 7th minute.
G - Chris Lozano 17th minute.
Shots on goal: Central 12, Goshen 5. Corner kicks: Central 8, Goshen 1.
Records: Central 10-8, Goshen 10-7-1.
NORTHRIDGE 3, CONCORD 1
N - Brody Gust 7th minute.
C - Ariel DeLaPaz 25th.
N - Cameron Chappell (Carter Stoltzfus assist) 52nd.
N - Chappell (Stoltzfus) 58th.
Shots on goal: Concord 8, Northridge 4. Goalie saves: Concord (Jose Martinez Hernandez) 0; Northridge (Cameron Graber 5). Corner kicks: Concord 2, Northridge 6.