CULVER — It took giving up a goal to wake the Lions up. Once they did, they took control.
After Kyle Vlach’s solo goal in the 45th minute cut Bremen’s lead to 2-1, the Lions went to work. Josh Brenneman scored on a penalty kick in the 57th minute, then assisted on a Danny Reynoso strike less than a minute later to put Bremen over the top, 4-1 in a semifinal win at the Culver Community Boys Soccer Sectional Wednesday.
Bremen moves on to play Argos, which beat Winamac 10-0 Wednesday, in the championship Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I think we finally just put our heads down and said ‘OK, let’s play soccer,’” said Bremen Head Boys Soccer Coach Mark Yoder. “We didn’t look like the team we’ve been for the last eight weeks at the beginning of that game; we reverted back to bad habits from early on in the season. I don’t think we warmed up well, I think our heads were in outer space. It took us to about the middle of that second half to really realize hey, this is a game, let’s go. When Culver scored, I think it woke us up finally, and I think the guys said ‘Hey, this is a sectional game. We’ve got to play.’”
Depth helped make a difference, too, as the 30-man Bremen roster wore down Culver’s 16-man lineup late.
“Bremen is a lot deeper than we were,” said Culver coach Jeff Becker. “This is the third time we’ve played them this year. They pounded on us pretty good the first two games. We came out and we played hard tonight, and up to the last 20 minutes of the game it was a 2-1 game. I think we played them even up pretty much until the end there.”
Reynoso and Brenneman each scored twice for Bremen in the contest as Reynoso netted the Lions their first goal on a Sam Bickel through pass into the box in the game’s 21st minute, and Bremen took a 2-0 lead into the break on a hard Brenneman shot to the near post off a Juan Sanillan cross with just 27 seconds remaining in the first half.
“They’ve been very consistent over the season,” said Yoder. “Danny plays above his grade level. He’s just a freshman, and very few games this year has he looked like just a freshman. He plays with a lot of confidence, which we need because he’s an integral part of the team and gives us a lot around the outside.”
“Josh is kind of our foundational stone in the midfield,” Yoder continued. “Tons of experience, smart with the game, and he gets a lot of goals because he sets other people up, and so he himself sometimes finds himself open. And he’s got an absolute cannon on him, so if he gets his foot wrapped on it right, then there’s a good chance it’s going in.”
Vlach scored Culver’s lone goal early in the second half to give the host Cavaliers — who were outshot 14-4 at the game — new life.
“Lot of speed. We’ve snuck him back to the backfield some because of his quickness to help us out,” said Becker of Vlach. “That’s where he was in the first part of the game, and that’s how we pull these faster teams down on us. He’s a junior and next year hopefully we can get him up front. He’s got a lot of speed and a lot of tact. Got a heck of a foot on him, too, so I think he’s going to be a good team leader next year.”
Bremen improves to 10-4-3 on the season and will play the Dragons in the championship Saturday. The Lions are hoping to follow up a first-ever Northern State Conference championship with the school’s first sectional title at the game.
“I’m really excited for the guys,” said Yoder. “They’re coming off a great conference championship, and they’re very deserving. Now we just need to get down to business over the next couple days and prep for who we meet and be ready to fight and battle for a sectional championship. I told the guys they could make history. They could win the first conference championship and the first sectional championship for the school this year, but it’s not just going to fall in our laps. We’ve got to put in tons of hard work, and I think we found that out tonight.”
Culver closes out the season at 1-10-3, meanwhile as seniors Ian Randolph, Zach Duplay, Luke Dunfee and Trent Becker all move on.
“I’m proud of the kids. They played hard tonight. They’ve been playing hard all season,” said Becker. “We played as hard the last two minutes of this season as we played the first two minutes. We’re a young team; we’re growing. We’re going to lose some key players, but I think our program is coming on real well.
“There’s nothing good I can say about our record, but there’s nothing bad I can say about our kids.”
• BREMEN 4, CULVER 1
At Culver Boys Soccer Sectional
Bremen— Danny Reynoso (Sam Bickel), 21st minute
Bremen — Josh Brenneman (Juan Santillan), 40th minute
Culver — Kyle Vlach, 45th minute
Bremen — Brenneman (PK), 57th minute
Bremen — Danny Reynoso (Brenneman), 58th minute
Shots: Bremen 14, Culver 4
Saves: Austin Adams (Bremen) 3, Marshall Anderson (Culver) 10
Record: Bremen 10-4-3, Culver 1-10-3 (final)