KNIGHTSTOWN — The Knightstown High School boys soccer team hosted Class A Sectional 42 again this year, and hoped to win its third consecutive sectional championship.
However, that was not to be.
Centerville, a fellow Tri-Eastern Conference school, traveled west on US. 40 Saturday afternoon, scored two second-half goals to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit, and edged the tourney host Panthers 2-1 on Don Willard Field to take home the sectional championship trophy.
The Bulldogs improved to 7-5-3 for the season and will play at Cascade in Thursday evening’s regional semifinals. Knightstown ended its season with a 10-7-1 record.
“We were expecting a close game,” Knightstown head Coach Adam Lykens said afterward, “not 5-0 but something like 2-1 or 1-0, and that’s the way it turned out. I feel bad for our seniors by the way it turned out.”
It was sunny and around 80 degrees at the start of the game with a breeze blowing from the south, and that wind proved to be a factor in the outcome of the contest.
As an example, Jake Erbse, the kicker on the undefeated Centerville football team, booted the ball from the north toward the south in the first half and it might have landed somewhere around the Panther goal under other conditions.
But the sphere traveled high, but curved mightily to the left when it hit the breeze and came nowhere near its desired destination.
“The wind definitely played a factor,” Lykens added, “as we were able to get the ball deep a lot in the first half for scoring opportunities, but not nearly as much in the second half.”
Knightstown had the wind at its back in the first half and was able to get some balls deep into Bulldog territory.
But before the Panthers had any really good scoring opportunities, Erbse missed a shot at the 37:52 mark. Knightstown had a corner kick at the 36:47 mark and eventually Centerville goal keeper Ethan Bain made a save at the 36:02 mark.
Erbse was issued a yellow card for rough play with 30:22 remaining in the first half.
Knightstown’s Levi Jones had a corner kick at the 29:32 mark on which nothing really happened, but the ball stayed on the Bulldog side of the field, and the Panthers’ Owen Newkirk kicked the ball into the net with 28:26 left in the opening period for a 1-0 Knightstown advantage.
That lead held up the remainder of the first half. Both teams had some more cracks at scoring goals, more by the Panthers because of the wind advantage, but none of the shots tickled twine, and both teams went to the 10-minute intermission with the tourney hosts ahead 1-0.
Early in the second half, Knightstown’s Jordan Weddle kicked the ball just wide left of the goal at the 36:31 mark, and both teams battled about another 15 minutes with no goals arising, although each team had shots at one.
At around the 22-minute mark, one of the referees called a penalty against the Panthers in their box, perhaps because of a hand-ball as it appeared no Centerville player got knocked down or was interfered with.
Erbse stepped in to attempt the short penalty kick and booted it past Knightstown goal keeper Aiden Harris to tie the game 1-1 with 21:45 remaining in the contest.
Now the action became really heavy, as it was obvious the team to score next would have a distinct advantage in the defensive-oriented game.
By far, much of it because of the wind, the Bulldogs had more of these scoring opportunities, and this reporter noted ten of these for Centerville compared to just two for Knightstown over the next 17 minutes or so.
Finally, the Bulldogs’ Conner Miller received a nice pass from a teammate on the right side of the field near the goal and booted the ball into the lower left corner of the net for a 2-1 Centerville advantage with just 4:16 left in the game.
“I didn’t completely agree with them (Bulldogs) getting that penalty kick,” Lykens noted, “but allowing that last goal they got was completely on us.”
Weddle had the final real good scoring opportunity for the Panthers, but his kick went wide with 1:36 left in the contest, and time ran out on Knightstown’s season.
The Panthers say goodbye to seniors Harris, Jones, Cordell Lucas, Luke Thomas, Wade Toth, and Clayton Happe.
“We’ll miss the contributions from the seniors,” Lykens added, “but we have good talent coming back and will just get ready for next season.”