Will Gephart’s body was shaking, partially because of the cold weather but more because of the stakes.
Faith Christian’s season was in the hands of the Eagles’ part-time junior goalkeeper.
A moment earlier, senior David Kuhns had scored on a penalty kick in sudden death, and it was up to Peru’s Landon Simmons to follow. As the ball left Simmons’ foot, Gephart dove to the lower left side of the net, right where Simmons had targeted, and blocked the shot to give Faith Christian (13-4) a 6-5 win in penalty kicks to advance to Saturday’s Class A Peru Regional championship against No. 9 Argos.
“I knew it was sudden death,” Gephart said. “I know if I didn’t get a block at some point, somebody was going to have to miss. I didn’t want that to be my team.”
A second-half goal by Peru tied the score at 1-1 and eventually led to two overtime sessions.
Zane Merkle, Daniel Rausch, Andrew Schumm, Sam Ewing and Jared Schumm all scored in the first round of penalty kicks, matching each Tigers player sent to the Peru football field’s 12-yard line.
Sudden death ensued and coach Kevin Johns sent Kuhns, a starting forward, into the spot of scoring and putting the pressure on the Tigers. Kuhns said he was fairly confident heading to the stripe, then pushed the ball off his right foot into the side netting on the left post.
Bashful after the fact, Kuhns did not want to take credit for his part in the victory.
“I don’t believe I was the hero,” he said. “I believe that belongs to Will for blocking that last shot. We were so happy for him.”
Gephart had shared keeping duties with junior classmate Noah Paige, but illness and injury forced Gephart into a larger role as the team’s stopper, allowing him to mature and improve.
On Thursday night, he saw a match where his team dominated time of possession and outshot the Tigers 8-3 nearly slip away when Adam Kirk scored with 20 minutes remaining.
It canceled out Brennan Argo’s first-half header off a throw-in by freshman Andrew Schumm. Because Peru plays on its football field, the dimensions are smaller, and that allowed the Eagles to take advantage by using throw-ins near their own goal as virtual corner kicks.
Schumm fired the ball into a scrum towards the near post and Argo outjumped a defender and flicked the ball off the side of his face.
“It was a perfect throw, and I couldn’t ask Andrew to throw it any better,” Argo said. “He threw it right on my head where coach told him to throw it, and I got a lucky hit.”