FULTON — After handing Oak Hill a narrow 3-2 defeat in last year’s regional semifinal, Argos’ boys soccer team knew the Golden Eagles would be gunning hard for them. With the Dragons trailing 3-1 midway through the second half, it looked like the challengers might just get the reprisal they’d been hoping for.
Instead, Damon Binkley’s penalty kick in the 66th minute sparked a furious outburst of three goals in a span of just 2:15 to give Argos a tentative 4-3 lead, Dominic Cataldo’s near-post header off a Binkley free kick in the 75th minute gave the Dragons the insurance they needed, and Argos claimed a 5-3 repeat Caston Regional championship repeat Saturday.
“I don’t know if it’s an emotional thing. They all like to score,” said Argos boys soccer coach Todd Van Der Weele. “We dug ourselves in a God-awful hole. Oak Hill came out ready to play. That penalty was a little suspect, but it was called, you’ve got to play, and they got some momentum and got that second one and we struggled from that point on. We got one back and they got that third one, and it was looking a little bleak for awhile. Fortunately the guys didn’t give up, they kept working and once we got the second one we started rolling.”
Gerrit Taylor’s PK put Oak Hill on the board in the second minute, and Austin Anderson kept the momentum going for the Eagles with a near-post goal of a Jake Evans cross in the eighth minute to push Argos into an early 2-0 deficit.
Zach Stockman cut into the lead with a header off a Josiah Osborn cross from the far wing in the 15th minute, but the Dragons still found themselves trailing 2-1 at the half.
The forecast got even bleaker for Argos when Evans scored from in close in the 52nd minute to stretch Oak Hill’s advantage to 3-1, but Binkley got a call when he was tripped from behind in the box beating two defenders in the 66th minute, and the sophomore striker calmly capitalized with a soft-touch shot to give the Dragons new life at 3-2.
He scored again 51 seconds later on a one-touch off a Spencer Van Der Weele cross from the corner to knot the game at 3-all, and Stockman scored the go-ahead on the rebound of a Taylor Ogle shot off the post roughly a minute and a half later to give Argos its first lead of the game, 4-3, in the 69th minute.
Cataldo’s goal all but clinched the win for the Dragons in the 75th minute.
The Dragons are known for scoring in bunches, but Saturday’s flurry was exceptional even by Argos standards.
“Once one of us does it, it sparks everybody,” said Stockman. “There are a lot of scoring chances on our team; we have a lot of people that can finish. Once one person does it, everybody wants to do it.”
“When we score, we usually get our confidence,” echoed Binkley. “And when we score, there’s definitely going to be two or three after that in a short time.”
While offense brought Argos back, Jacob Mechling made three big saves at goalkeeper, including a diving deflection scrambling back from the far post that kept the Eagles from pushing their lead to 3-1 in the 28th minute.
The Dragons were helped in their first regional repeat since 1997-98 by a young but veteran cast of players which included eight starters back from last season’s campaign. Argos will look to add to that already impressive resume at the LaVille Semistate at Newton Park Saturday when the Dragons take on Guerin Catholic in a match scheduled for noon following the tourney opener between Fort Wayne Canterbury and Bethany Christian at 10 a.m. ET.
“They seemed like they were pressing at times, but they never gave up. They kept working hard… and after we got that second goal we just tried to put as much pressure on them as they could handle, and fortunately we were able to keep putting them in the net,” said Van Der Weele.
“It feels great coming back and winning again,” said Stockman. “We were pretty nervous when we went down, but we kind of kept our heads and kept fighting through and got the result.
The weather played havoc with both sides Saturday as gusty winds hung high balls up in the air and — combined with the wet turf at Caston — made sustaining possession a challenge. By a twist of fate the conditions were nearly identical to last year’s regional semifinal between the two squads.
“They were the exact same conditions,” said Binkley. “It’s tough to adjust, especially on a small field like this. You’ve just got to get your body in front of the ball and try to possess as well as you can.”
“I think the weather was a huge factor,” Todd Van Der Weele said. “To feel the wind on the sidelines in the first half it did not feel like it was blowing that hard, but to see the way the ball was getting hung up in the air, that wind was a huge factor. I think that caused a lot of skips throughout the game, especially going North.”
• ARGOS 5, OAK HILL 3
At Caston Regional championship
Oak Hill — Gerritt Taylor (PK), 2nd minute
Oak Hill — Austin Anderson (Jake Evans), 8th minute
Argos — Zach Stockman (Josiah Osborn), 15th minute
Oak Hill — Evans, 52nd minute
Argos — Damon Binkley (PK), 66th minute
Argos — Binkley (Spencer Van Der Weele), 67th minute
Argos — Stockman, 69th minute
Argos — Dominic Cataldo (Binkley), 75th minute
Shots on goal: Argos 6, Oak Hill 6
Saves: Argos 3 (Jacob Mechling), Oak Hill 1 (Jace Martin)
Fouls: Argos 13, Oak Hill 16
Corners: Argos 5, Oak Hill 2
Records: Argos 19-1-1