MISHAWAKA — The Class 3A, Sectional 4 boys soccer final has been set.
It’ll be No. 10 Elkhart (12-1) taking on Concord (4-8-2) Saturday night at Penn High School after Elkhart and Concord were both 3-1 victors in semifinal action Wednesday night.
In the first game Wednesday, the No. 10 Lions ended No. 5 Northridge’s season, while the Minutemen rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take down Warsaw.
The two teams met in the regular season, with Elkhart emerging with a 4-1 victory. Concord coach Shawn McCuen knows his team will be in for a battle Saturday against the Lions.
“They’re a great team; they’re well coached,” McCuen said. “We’re going to have to be on our ‘A’ game and we’re going to have to implement the things that we’ll put into practice (Thursday) and Friday. It’ll be a great battle; it’ll be a great contest.”
CONCORD 3, WARSAW 1
After a scoreless first half, Warsaw senior Alejandro Murillo scored less than five minutes into the second half to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
From that point on, though, it was all Minutemen. Senior Arik Schwartz found the equalizer for Concord 12 minutes later, tying the game at one on a mini breakaway opportunity.
“Arik did a great job,” McCuen said. “Arik always has speed for us. … We needed to put something in; other people weren’t getting the job done and doing what we asked. We gave him an opportunity in the second half, next guy in … my hat goes off to him.”
Less than five minutes later, Concord junior Andres Dixon had the shot of the game, drilling one in the top left corner of the net from about 40 yards out to give the Minutemen a 2-1 lead 19:19 remaining in the game.
“Wow,” McCuen said was his reaction to Dixon’s goal. “The kid’s a great player, and the problem that we talk to him about is he comes in intermittent times. There are times where he’s like ‘Woo’ and is the type of player he can be, and the key is to get him to do it for 80 minutes.”
Concord would add its third goal with 5:04 left on another beautiful shot, this one from junior Gadiel Montiel.
While it’s been an up-and-down season for the Minutemen so far, McCuen was proud of his team’s response to going down in Wednesday’s game.
“If we go out and compete and give everything we have and take pride in the patch, anything can happen,” McCuen said. “We took pride in the patch (Wednesday) down 1-0 and came back and won 3-1. That’s what we preach.”
ELKHART 3, NORTHRIDGE 1
A season full of hope and high expectations came to a sudden end for the Raiders on Wednesday night. After making it to the regional championship game in the last two seasons, Northridge’s 2020 campaign ends in the sectional semifinal.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Northridge coach Lawrence Baltazar said. “I think Elkhart, I really want to give them a lot of credit: they really came out and had a game plan in place. Honestly, they beat us at our own game. They sat back and hit us on counters, and we’ve been winning doing that all year long.”
Two goals in a 40-second stretch proved to be the difference for the Lions in their victory over Northridge.
After both defenses were stout for the first 28 minutes, Elkhart was finally able to break through with their counterattack. Senior Naieem Bean tallied the first goal for the Lions, as his shot went off the right goal post, then the left one and trickled into the back of the net with 11:10 to go in the first half.
Less than 40 seconds later, Elkhart doubled its lead on a goal from senior Uvaldo Domingo-Moreno. This made it 2-0 Lions with 10:35 until halftime.
“They got that quick counterattack goal and we got rattled a little bit,” Baltazar said. “And then they added that other one which was really, really big. When you’re in these games, you have to make plays like that. They did and we didn’t. Credit to them.”
Out of the break, Elkhart extended its lead with an incredible shot from senior Andrew Argueta to make it 3-0 less than three minutes into the second half.
Northridge’s tally came from senior Carter Stoltzfus with 2:34 to go. The Raiders almost pulled to within one less than a minute later, but Elkhart goalie Carlos Alvarado made a point-blank save to keep it a 3-1 contest.
A total of 16 seniors were on the Raider roster this year. It was a group that found tremendous success the last four seasons and finish 2020 with a 15-2-1 record.
“We’ve won a lot of games together over the last three, four years,” Baltazar said. “They win together as a team and they lose together as a team. I’m proud of them. They put us back on the map. They’ve been pretty much ranked in the top 10 the last three years running. It’s been a nice run, so we’re thankful for those guys for doing that.”