Kirezi Freddy was 6 years old the last time North Central won a boys soccer regional championship.
With nine regional titles and five state championships, North Central is one of the most storied programs in state history. Yet, the Class 2A No. 4 Panthers have been unable to get past regionals in almost a decade.
Freddy ended that drought Saturday, scoring the game-winning goal with 11 minutes left in regulation to secure North Central’s 2-1 win over No. 3 Avon.
“This means a lot for us,” Freddy said. “For the past few years, it’s been a lot of hard work and we finally got the results we wanted. I couldn’t be prouder.”
From the opening kickoff, it was clear that fans who assembled at North Central on Saturday were in for a treat. Both sides had their fair share of attempts on goal within the first 30 minutes. Spectacular stops in goal by Avon’s Diego Cuiriz and North Central’s John Call kept the game scoreless.
Lightning finally struck for the Panthers with 7 minutes left in the half after a North Central player was taken down in the box. Levi King delivered from the spot to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead going into the half.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair as both teams had chances on goal.
Avon’s Riley Westergren made things interesting with 15 minutes left in the game. With 15 minutes to play, the Orioles peppered North Central’s goal off a corner kick and eventually, Riley Westergren was able to get a shot past Call to tie the score at 1.
“To come back, show some fight and tie it up is all you could ask for,” Orioles coach Phil Schmidt said. “You wish to come out on the other side, but North Central was a worthy opponent and I thought it was a really tough game for both teams.”
The game seemed destined for overtime, but the Panthers had other plans. Winning a corner with a little over 10 minutes left in the game, the ball fell to the feet of Joe Kaefer, who unselfishly found a wide-open Freddy for the decisive goal.
“I honestly don’t know what I was thinking at that moment,” Freddy said. “I had no idea it went in, but I just saw my teammates running at me. At that moment I knew it went in and we had the game in our hands.”
The Orioles had a few more chances on goal, but the Panthers back line stood tall and for the first time since 2007, the Panthers were regional champions.
“We’ve had a lot of good teams, but its very difficult to get out of the north side of Indianapolis,” said Panthers coach Jerry Little. “Starting in sectionals, there are no easy games on the road to state. This is big because we’re still relatively young as a team and I’ve seen the kids come and jell together. I’m very proud of them.”