Dragons drop Golden Eagles, 2-1 at Caston Regional semis

FULTON — Both teams struggled with the field width and the weather at the outset, but Argos adjusted a little quicker.
The Dragons scored a pair of goals in the 18th and 25th minutes and made them stand up despite some late pressure by Oak Hill for a 2-1 semifinal victory at the Class A Caston Boys Soccer Regional Thursday.
Fresh from its first sectional championship in a decade at the Culver Community Sectional Saturday, Argos moves on to face the winner of the late semifinal contest between Peru and West Lafayette in the regional championship Saturday at 7 p.m.
The rainy, sloppy conditions at Caston combined with the less-than-standard 53-yard field width to give both teams fits. With a possession game made all but impossible, the Dragons poured on some offensive pressure to take the early lead on goals by Zach Stockman and Damon Binkley, then held on through the second half for the win.
“I think both teams struggled tonight with the field width,” said Argos Head Boys Soccer Coach Todd VanDerWeele. “It’s a lot smaller than we usually play on, and I think it’s a lot smaller than they usually play on because they looked like they might have struggled even more than we did, and we struggled a lot.
“(The weather), I think it goes a little hand in hand with the field width. It’s something you don’t plan, you kind of have to get through it the first few minutes of the game and kind of go with it. The ball tends to skip, but then when it bounces off players, it also tends to go by players. There are just all kinds of things to react to. It kind of depends on the team that can react quicker to get a quicker start.”
Stockman — who netted two goals in the Dragons’ shoot-out win over Bremen for the Culver Sectional championship Saturday — continued his hot streak at Caston, opening the scoring with an opposite side clean-up of a Damon Binkley go to put Argos on the scoreboard in the 18th minute. Freshman Binkley drove in a hard near-post roller from 30 yards out less than seven minutes later to give his team some breathing room, and the Dragons went into the intermission up 2-0.
“The first goal came right after they had a heck of a shot and (Jacob) Mechling saved; we scored on the counter,” said VanDerWeele. “I thought at that time that we had started imposing our will on them a little bit and started to break them down a little bit. I think the goals were probably both deserved; we worked hard to get them.
“We got going in a little bit of a groove, and after Binkley scored that second one we had two more golden opportunities to salt it away, we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Those missed opportunities nearly came back to haunt the Dragons.
When Oak Hill’s Austin Daugherty scored on a bending chip shot from more than 35 yards away that dropped in just behind Argos keeper Mechling in the 65th minute, the revitalized Golden Eagles started pressuring the Dragons’ defensive third with numerous shots, including a Daugherty header in close off a corner kick from Gerrit Taylor that nearly knotted the game up at 2-all in the 72nd minute. Mechling came up with a big save to preserve the Argos advantage, however, and the Dragons began pushing up with long balls over the top to hold off the Eagles for the win.
“We started off the half, we pressured pretty well. I told the guys at the half, ‘Pressure them, let’s get another goal’ because I don’t think most teams react to being pressured like that,” VanDerWeel said. “Then it just kind of got into a little slugfest, and I don’t think we fell asleep, we just kind of got a little lackadaisical and they got that long shot and it put them back in the game. It gave them some life, and we had to fight to the end, so hat’s off to them. They didn’t give up, and luckily we were able to pull that one off.”
Oak Hill closes out the season at 14-3-2, while Argos improves to 12-6 as it moves on in search of its first regional championship since 2001, when the Dragons beat Winamac 4-0 at their home regional before falling in an overtime heartbreaker at the South Bend Adams Semistate.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been in a situation like this,” said VanDerWeele. “I’ve gotten some advice from some old coaches, and we’re just trying to do the same thing, keep it real and try to go one game at a time. We haven’t even talked to the kids at all about Saturday.
“It’s fun this time of year, but it’s also tough. Every game you’ve got to come ready to play, and I guess that’s also fun but I fully envision whoever comes out of this second game, it’s going to be a good game. We’re really going to come with our game; we can’t allow breakdowns like we did tonight.”
At Caston Regional
First half
Argos — Zach Stockman (Damon Binkley), 18th minute
Argos — Binkley, 25th minute
Second half
Oak Hill — Austin Daugherty, 65th minute
Shots on goal: Oak Hill 4, Argos 5
Saves: Jace Martin (Oak Hill) 3, Jacob Mechling (Argos) 3
Corners: Oak Hill 4, Argos 4
Records: Argos 12-6, Oak Hill 14-3-2 (final)