PLYMOUTH — Argos’ roster is sprinkled with seasoned scorers. The Rockies have struggled to find the finishing touch this year.
The combination added up to an 8-1 rout by the Dragons at Kindt Field Wednesday.
“Our offensive production with these guys really bloomed last year in the tournament, which enabled us to make the run that we made,” said Argos head coach Todd VanDerWeele.
“I thought this was probably the best game we’ve played this year. They moved the ball well. I told the guys just to bring tons of pressure and we did when we had the ball and when we were defending.”
Six different Argos players netted goals, including a pair of JV players with the game already sewn up late in the second half. The Dragons scored early and often with goals in the seventh and 11th minutes by Max Bailey and Zach Stockman to go up 2-0 quickly.
Plymouth’s only score of the night came on an Argos own goal, a header that was misplayed off a Kyle Emenaker corner kick into the box in the 26th minute to cut the visitors’ lead to 3-1 after Stockman’s second goal less than a minute prior. But the Dragons wasted little time stretching that lead back to a three-goal advantage with a Taylor Ogle goal on Dominic Cataldo’s second assist in the 28th minute to take a 4-1 lead into the intermission.
Stockman finished with a hat trick when he opened second-half scoring with a solo goal in the 50th minute to put Plymouth down 5-1.
He returns for his senior season at midfield after earning team MVP honors last year when he helped lift Argos to the Culver Sectional championship with two goals and two saves during a PK shootout with Bremen in the championship. The Dragons went on to win their first regional title in 10 years.
Stockman is one of eight starters back from that regional championship squad, and that experience showed Wednesday.
“I think a lot of it goes back to the fact that I have eight starters back,” VanDerWeele, who was named Ball State’s Alumnus Coach of the Year in 2011, said. “They all played together last year and they played together all summer, and it’s just continuity. I think that’s a lot of it. We do possession stuff every day at practice, to be able to possess the ball at some level, and we’re getting there.”
Plymouth’s defense held Argos striker Damon Binkley to just one goal — a solo strike in the 51st minute just seconds after Stockman’s third goal that gave the Dragons an airtight 6-1 cushion — but the Rockies struggled to contain all of the Argos firepower as the Dragons touched off eight scores in nine shots on goal.
“We knew their leading scorer was Binkley. He didn’t get many whiffs in the game, but unfortunately their entire midfield and their forward crew, they shot the lights out,” said Plymouth head coach Josh Martin. “I think only one of their shots didn’t convert into a goal. The first half they got the ball around the 18 they shot it, and it went in. It was tough. We were hoping that our keeper would come up with some big saves. A couple of those shots were probably darn near unstoppable. We were hoping he’d get his hand on it or parry a couple off the net, but it just didn’t happen tonight.”
Plymouth only recently ended a four-game scoring drought with a combined eight goals in three games at the Blueberry Festival, but the team found itself struggling to finish once more Wednesday. The Rockies rattled off six shots on goal to Argos’ nine, but most of those were leveled right at Argos keeper Jacob Mechling, who recorded six saves in the near-shutout.
“That’s been a problem for us all year, converting our scoring opportunities,” said Martin. “A lot of times our guys are getting in that box and they want to put their foot through it instep style, and when you’re that close all it is is push it into a corner or you finesse it into a corner or at least make him make a save… We haven’t been able to do that no matter what forward squad we’ve had up there.”
Even with the Rockies trailing by seven goals, both teams put on a demonstration of good sportsmanship at Wednesday’s game at Kindt Field.
The rivalry has been much more heated in the past but has relaxed with the introduction of a two-class state tournament last year that funneled Plymouth and Argos into separate sectional fields, as well as off-season ties between players on the two squads.
“It’s a fun game. A lot of the kids play travel together, they play indoor together,” said VanDerWeele. “I think it’s become better in my mind because the vitriol that used to exist is gone. It’s good for the kids to play hard, but in the end we’re eight miles apart and they play together and while I’m here for Argos soccer it’s better for Argos soccer if we all get along and we’re all trying to make soccer around here better.”
The climate of clean play may also have been in memory of deceased Plymouth player Cody Poczik, whose life was tragically cut short in a car accident in June. Poczik had ties with players in Argos as well as Plymouth, and his memory was honored prior to the start of Wednesday’s game.
“Argos is another one of those area teams that reached out. A lot of those kids had played with Cody on some travel teams, and that’s kind of when it’s nice that it’s not all just about soccer. It’s about something bigger — it’s about relationships and friendships — and I thought it was very compassionate and very supportive for them to come out and make that gesture that they made tonight,” said Martin.
“That was a super clean game. I’ve been coaching here a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of real dirty, real physical Argos games, and both sides played really clean tonight with a lot of fair play. It just shows the goodwill between both of our teams. And I was proud of our guys — you’re getting whooped 8-1 and a lot of times the frustration sets in, you start fouling and looking to take cheap shots at guys. One of the very few bright spots tonight was that we kept our composure in that aspect of the game.”
Argos improves to 5-1-0 and will host an invitational Saturday, taking on John Glenn while NorthWood faces off with Garrett in the opposite bracket. Plymouth slips to 2-5-3 and will play Caston tonight.
• ARGOS 8, PLYMOUTH 1
Max Bailey, 7th minute
Zach Stockman (Dominic Cataldo), 11th minute
Stockman, 25th minute
Argos own goal (Kyle Emenekar), 26th minute
Taylor Ogle (Cataldo), 28th minute
Stockman, 50th minute
Damon Binkley, 51st minute
Chandler Campbell (Joe Stone), 65th minute
Henry Harrell, 75th minute
Shots: Argos 9, Plymouth 6
Saves: Argos 6 (Jacob Mechling), Plymouth 2 (Zach Lee)
Corners: Argos 2, Plymouth 1
Records: Argos 5-1-0, Plymouth 2-5-3