COLUMBUS, Ind. – The frustrations of near misses and stunning goals were haunting Floyd Central on Thursday night. The Highlanders were dominating the Class 2-A boys soccer regional semifinal with Connersville is every aspect – except the score.
Floyd had more shots, more corner kicks, more possession time, and the match was deadlocked 2-2 with less than 16 minutes left. The feeling of dread, of looming extra time, even a possible shootout, was clouding the Floyd psyche like the onset of a nasty head cold.
Then in four minutes, the Highlanders blew everything away, scoring three times to stun the Spartans 5-2 while advancing to the championship on Saturday night at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex.
Senior forward Deaton Jacobi scored the go-ahead goal and added assists on the two following insurance scores as Floyd Central (10-5-4) reached the final. The Highlanders will face the East Central (a 2-1 winner over Columbus East in the second semifinal) as they chase their first regional title.
Floyd’s sudden offensive eruption was as surprising as the Connersville goals. The Spartans (14-5-1) had drawn even on Sam Griffin’s header, which appeared harmless until it slithered into the net at 17:13. At that point, Connersville had three shots and had connected twice.
Jacobi struck at 15:30, taking a Landon Campbell pass and beating goalie Cole Garrison with a quick shot. At 13:26, Jacobi set up Sean Brown for a 4-2 lead, and Jacobi’s corner kick was converted by Campbell at 11:49. Just like that, the Highlanders had a lead that matched their statistical advantages.
“I can’t explain it,” Floyd coach Tim Rice said. “I don’t know I’ve ever been involved in a game that tight, and all of a sudden the floodgates open – especially one that means this much. There were a lot of roller-coaster rides.”
Floyd rarely allowed Connersville out of its defensive posture early on, and that pressure finally paid off with Campbell’s first goal at 20:09 as he hooked a shot into the right corner. But the Spartans took advantage of a lapse by Floyd goalie Jack Parker, who failed to clear a harmless ball and sent it directly to Connersville’s Luis Guerrero for a gift goal at 5:42.
Floyd struck quickly in the second half as Brodey Zink ripped a shot from 18 yards at 38:32.
The Highlanders had another chance to add on when Brown – who had misfired on three point-blank shots in the first half – was awarded a penalty kick following a Connersville hand ball in the box at 31:33. But Garrison made a fantastic save, diving to his right, to deny Brown.
“I just couldn’t finish anything,” Brown said.
Instead of being finished, Connersville had life, and pulled even.
“We knew they tended to sit back, and we would win the possession game,” Rice said. “We talked about not just playing pretty, but being effective. They got a little frustrated. Sean missed three or four opportunities he will never miss again in his life. That changes your psyche.
“If you underestimate your opponent, you’re going to get killed.”
Floyd Central finally broke out with the three goals in rapid-fire succession. That capped a match it ruled with a 22-5 advantage in shots, an 8-1 edge in corner kicks, and an immeasurable lead in time of actual possession of the ball. A match snapshot would feature all 11 Connersville defenders inside the 30-yard mark.
After the late scoring rush, the picture is different.The Highlanders now have a chance to make program history.
“Our goal is to make it as far as possible,” Brown said. “We’ve worked to get to this point. We always want to prove something. I think we’re a lot better team than we were the first game of the season.”
Justin Sokeland can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org