Dragons edge Bremen 3-2 in shoot-out for Culver boys title

CULVER — Call it a hunch.
Argos starting goalie Jacob Mechling had been performing creditably in goal for more than 87 and a half minutes, but with a shoot-out with Bremen looming, Dragons head coach Todd VanDerWeele subbed in forward and erstwhile keeper Zach Stockman with 6:21 remaining in the second overtime period.
Stockman made two big saves in the shoot-out, and Argos freshman Damon Binkley gave a subdued fist pump after icing his penalty kick to salt away a 3-2 win over the Lions at the Class A Culver Community Boys Soccer Sectional Saturday.
With their first sectional title in 10 years, the Dragons advance to the four-team Caston Regional. Argos plays Oak Hill at 5 p.m. Thursday with the championship scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.
“They both are really good, but Stockman I just had a gut feeling,” said VanDerWeele. “It wasn’t anything that Jacob did wrong, I just had a gut feeling that Stockman would be on. I don’t know how to explain it — coaches’ gut.”
“In the summer we had to put him in the goal, and he had never played keeper,” VanDerWeel said. “He came in and had a composure in the goal like a veteran. We went with that for awhile, but toward the end of the season we started having some injuries and I had to put him out in the field. Mechling came in and did a good job, and I’ve just kind of gone with that because it’s working. Generally in penalty kick shootouts, the keeper is only going to make one save, and he got two of them. He was outstanding tonight.”
“It was tough. I was goalie at the beginning of the season and got a lot of work at it,” said Stockman. “I just went with my heart and tried as hard as I could.”
“We all stepped up,” he added. “We had a freshman out here, we had a sophomore go out injured, and everybody just put forth 100 percent effort and did what they could.”
In addition to his in-goal heroics, Stockman scored both of Argos’ goals Saturday, breaking away on a solo run to give the Dragons a 1-0 advantage in the eighth minute and scoring again in the 58th minute on a Binkley assist to break a 1-1 tie.
“I stepped up and was put in as the striker after I injured my elbow. I wanted to do it for the team tonight. We hadn’t won sectionals in 10 years, and it was something we needed,” said Stockman.
“Both good goals, he was in the right spot and he made the play,” VanDerWeele said. “First one he had to use a little speed to get there, the second one he just put himself in position on a nice service from Binkley. It’s been the story for us all year. It’s always somebody different, and that’s how teams win tournaments. You can’t rely on one or two guys, and this year we’ve got a lot of guys that are stepping up and making those plays.”
Bremen initially went up 2-1 in the shoot-out but couldn’t put the game away as Stockman came up with a pair of saves, and the Lions’ final two PKs sailed errant for the heartbreaking loss.
“PKs are no fun for anyone, but when you miss three it’s kind of hard to win a PK shoot-out,” said Bremen coach Mark Yoder. “When they missed the first one we should have been able to finish it off, and we didn’t. We had the game in hand and just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Bremen forced the overtime on a Josh Brenneman header off a Danny Reynoso cross deep into the box in the 77th minute to knot the game at 2-all. It was the second time the Lions had battled from behind after Donald Browning scored on another header on a Samuel Bickel pass in the 22nd minute to tie the game 1-1 before the half.
“They fought back twice, showed a lot of resiliency there as a team and really kept fighting,” said Yoder. “The two goals we scored were when we kept our composure. When we kept our composure we were doing really, really well; we just didn’t keep composure long enough in the game to take advantage of some of our opportunities. A couple really nice goals. Great balls into the middle, guys staying strong in the air and touching it down. A beautiful cross from Sam on the first goal and then Josh taking advantage of his athleticism on the second to slip it past the keeper.”
Bremen closes out the year at 10-5-3 with the first Northern State Conference soccer championship in history. The team bids good-bye to three seniors in Brenneman, Andrew LaFree and Mason Hattabaugh.
“We have lots to be proud and a decent record finishing up,” Yoder said. “The NSC championship will eventually mean something to them. I know for the next couple weeks it’s not going to seem like much, but it’s a great accomplishment, it just kind of stinks we fell short on this final goal being so close to it. That’s going to be a tough thing to swallow in the coming days for the guys, and I don’t know if there’s a good way to really deal with that as a coach.”
“A big junior class, we’ll have plenty of seniors next year. These three are pretty special to me, though,” he added. “They were the first freshman class I had when I started here. It’s going to be a big loss for the team. Three great leaders, awesome teammates, worked their butts off for the team. I’m most disappointed for them because they really deserved this. This is four years of heartbreak for them, really. That’s tough to handle. I hope it just gives them some extra passion for whatever they do later in life after they graduate.”
(Argos wins 3-2 on penalty kicks)
At Culver Community Boys Soccer Sectional
Penalty kicks: Argos 3 (Ronald Tanner, Patric Shei, Damon Binkley), Bremen 2 (Danny Reynoso, Mason Hattabaugh)
First half
Argos — Zach Stockman, 8th minute
Bremen — Donald Browning (Samuel Bickel), 22nd minute
Second half
Argos — Stockman (Binkley), 58th minute
Bremen — Josh Brenneman (Reynoso), 77th minute
Shots on goal: Bremen 5, Argos 8
Saves: Austin Adams (Bremen) 6, Jacob Mechling (Argos) 3, Stockman (Argos) 2
Corners: Bremen 4, Argos 7
Records: Bremen 10-5-3 (final), Argos Argos 11-6