GOSHEN — It’s rare athletes compete against a defending state champion in high school sports. It’s almost unheard of to play two in the same day.
The Bethany Christian boys soccer team did that Saturday — and won both times.
The No. 5 (1A) Bruins knocked off last year’s Class 1A state champions, Fort Wayne Canterbury, 3-0, and followed it up with a 5-3 victory over last year’s Class 2A winners, Hammond Bishop Noll, 5-3.
“How many times can you say that?” Bethany Christian coach Hank Willems remarked following the win over Bishop Noll.
The two wins were a part of the inaugural Bruins Classic, which saw the three schools all play each other. Bishop Noll defeated Canterbury, 2-0, in the other game of the day.
GAME 1: BRUINS 3, CAVALIERS 0
It was a dominant performance in the first game from Bethany Christian as they shut out No. 10 (2A) Canterbury, 3-0.
The majority of the game was played in the Cavaliers’ defensive end, as the Bruins rarely let Canterbury cross midfield. After 11 minutes of scoreless action, Bruins sophomore Alann Torres tallied a goal to make it 1-0 Bethany Christian.
“Maybe my favorite goal of the season,” Willems said. “When we have our outside (midfielders) taking inline, playing it back behind the defense that’s recovering, and we come in with our midfielder. That’s such a team-type goal, so it was a very nice goal to score.”
With less than five minutes in the half, senior Sam Ostergren doubled the Bruins’ lead with a strike from the far side of the field, giving Bethany Christian a 2-0 lead at the half.
Josiah Bustamante put the finishing touches on the Game 1 victory when the junior scored with 28:45 to go to make it 3-0. The Bruins coasted from there with strong defense.
It was a victory 23 years in the making for Willems, who was an assistant under Canterbury coach Greg Mauch in the early 2000s. The last time Willems had defeated Mauch head-to-head was 1996 when Willems was head coach at Logansport. Bethany Christian and Canterbury played in back-to-back semistate games in 2011 and 2012, with Canterbury winning both.
While Saturday’s win didn’t avenge the pain of those playoff losses, Willems was happy to get the win over his former boss.
“He’s beaten me a few times … so yeah, it feels good beating him,” Willems said.
GAME 2: BRUINS 5, WARRIORS 3
After Bishop Noll defeated Canterbury, the Warriors and Bruins faced off in a hotly contested matchup. Bishop Noll had a 2-1 lead at halftime, but Bethany Christian scored four unanswered goals to start the second half to win 5-3.
It was the play of Torres that sparked the Bruins in the second half. He scored on a penalty kick less than eight minutes into the half to tie the game at two.
“It gave us a lot of more motivation to keep on playing well,” Torres said of his game-tying PK.
Torres then also scored the team’s fifth goal of the game with 5:35 to go in the contest.
“The run he made, starting at midfield, beating a couple of guys and then the shot — that’s a top-level shot,” Willems said.
The sophomore knew he had to come out in the second half and lead his team to victory.
“The whole first half, we were slow. We weren’t fully in the game,” Torres said. “So, as a captain, I knew I had to step up and bring more energy to the game.”
Bethany Christian raced out to a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick from junior Dylan Horning. The Bruins dominated the first 15 minutes of the game, creating multiple scoring opportunities for themselves.
Bishop Noll would score the next two goals, though, to take a 2-1 halftime lead. The first came off a shot from junior Noah Reid, while the second came off a crossing pass that deflected off the heel of a Bruin defender and into the back of the net.
“There was about a 15-minute block where I almost felt it started off too easy for us,” Willems said. “We had four or five shots that the goalie made huge saves. … In hindsight, it was really good for us to have to find a way to win a game like that.”
After Torres tied it, freshman Jordan Ross Richer drilled a shot from 30 yards out to put Bethany Christian ahead for good. A fellow freshman, Joey Mujica, made it 4-2 when he scored with 6:12 to go in the game.
Sophomore goalie Evan Brown stepped up for the Bruins in the second half, making numerous key saves in the final 15 minutes and allowing one late goal with 1:48 left.
“He has been a pleasant surprise,” Willems said of his sophomore goalie. “I give him a lot of credit. He has stepped up and done a good job.”
The two victories improve Bethany Christian to 5-2 on the season. Torres said defeating two defending state champions in one day is a confidence booster for the entire Bruins roster.
“Honestly, that just shows us how much potential we have as a little small, private school in Goshen,” Torres said. “All of our teammates — I know for a fact — after these two games, have a clue of how good we can be.”