Argos saves ‘chaotic, hectic’ second half, beats Kouts to win regional title
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Gabe Stone, Michael Richard and Devon Allen each had a goal to lead the Argos boys soccer team to a 3-2 win over Kouts in a Class 1A regional final at Argos Saturday.
The win improved the top-ranked Dragons to 17-3-1. They have won 11 regionals in their history, including two in a row and eight in the 10 years of class soccer.
Argos will play No. 7 Heritage Christian in the semistate at Kokomo High School at 3 p.m. this Saturday.
The win has ramifications on Argos’ future. The Dragons, who won the Class 1A state title last year, will play in the Class 2A state tournament in both 2021 and 2022, per the IHSAA Success Factor.
Heritage Christian defeated Lakewood Park and Faith Christian to win the regional on their home field.
The Argos-Lafayette Central Catholic girls semistate game will follow the boys game at 5 p.m. at Kokomo.
Kouts finished 12-1-4. Twin brothers Hunter Kneifel and Parker Kneifel each had a goal for the Mustangs.
Argos had a 6-4 advantage in shots on goal. Kurt Johnson had two saves in goal for Argos.
The Dragons never trailed in 160 minutes of soccer during the regional.
They opened their day with a 5-2 win over Morgan Township in the semifinals. Kouts edged Westview 2-1 in penalty kicks in the other semifinal.
Sean Richard and Teddy Redinger each had assists against Kouts.
Stone, who also had two goals in the Morgan Township game, scored in the 10th minute to give Argos a 1-0 lead. Richard scored off an assist from his brother Sean to make it 2-0.
Argos carried the 2-0 lead to halftime before Hunter Kneifel scored less than five minutes into the second half.
Allen scored off a Teddy Redinger assist to restore the two-goal lead with less than nine minutes left, but Parker Kneifel’s goal less than a minute later got Kouts back within 3-2.
That led to an uneasy final eight minutes for Argos.
“Hectic and chaotic are probably the two words I would use,” Argos coach Todd VanDerWeele said. “When a team is undefeated like that, they have some pride. They’re not just going to give up. We told the kids at halftime they’re going to come out right off the bat and try and get one. We didn’t deal with that well, and they ended up getting that first goal. … After that, we just played for a long while, and of course, they started to pick up the pressure because they were trying to get an equalizer, and we were able to get that third goal, and I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got it. We’ll ride it out.’
“And they scored immediately afterwards. It was just one of those situations where I think that we had a team that wasn’t going to give up, and of course, we didn’t necessarily want to give it up, but I think the second-game-of-the-day thing got to us a little bit more this year than it did last year. Luckily, we were able to ride that one-goal lead out to the end. But it was definitely very unnerving. It was a very nervous situation for quite awhile there.”
Kokomo has a turf field. Argos practiced on its home grass field Monday but will practice on turf fields at Oak Hill High School and South Bend the rest of the week.
Argos won last year’s semistate game against Lakewood Park and its state title game against Indianapolis Lutheran on turf fields last year.
“Basically with the turf, we’re just trying to reacclimate ourselves with it,” VanDerWeele said. “We don’t play on it very often. And that’s going to be a lot of what we do moving the ball. Some other things we’ll probably work on as the week goes on, depending on what we can find out. We’re working on how we're going to deal with Heritage Christian.”
Heritage Christian edged Argos 2-1 in overtime in the 2016 semistate at Argos in their most recent meeting.
Argos has scored 96 goals this season. That includes a team-high 26 from Redinger and 19 from Michael Richard.
Heritage Christian has scored 35 goals this season, and no player has scored more than 11.
But VanDerWeele also acknowledged Heritage Christian’s strength of schedule. They have already knocked out three top 10 teams – No. 10 Scecina, No. 4 Park Tudor and No. 3 Lakewood Park – during their tournament run.
“I think it’s a little hard to know, but there’s a certain pace of the game that they want, which may be a little different than what we want,” VanDerWeele said. “Trying to keep it level or trying to get up early at some point in time I think benefits us immensely.”
Argos 5, Morgan Township 2
Stone and Michael Richard scored twice each, and Jake Stults also tallied for the Dragons in their semifinal win over Morgan Township Saturday.
Redinger had two assists, and Cam Markley also had an assist.
Tate Ivanyo and Ethan Lesko scored for the Cherokees, who finished 13-5.
When Stone scored in the 54th minute, Argos led 3-0.
“Gabe was huge, and we knew this was a good matchup for Gabe,” VanDerWeele said. “We liked the matchup with our outside mids, and for him to get that first goal … in those big games, you want your experienced guys to come up huge. … That was a good way to get us started. And that third goal, it was a good shot that was saved, and he didn’t look like from (the sidelines) like he had an angle, but he drilled it anyway.”
Ivanyo scored on a penalty kick in the 57th minute, and Lesko scored on a second chance after Johnson saved his first shot in the 67th minute.
But just 1:26 after Lesko’s goal, Stults scored on a shot that slipped through goalkeeper Riley Smith’s hands to make it 4-2.
A clinical left-footed strike from Richard to the back right corner of the net completed the scoring with 5:34 to go.
Top Morgan Township scorer Jake Jaranowski, who had 21 goals coming into the game, was held scoreless. He left the game with 3:51 left after an apparent collision of heads with Sean Richard.
“I think that we relaxed and thought that Morgan Township was going to give it to us,” VanDerWeele said. “Obviously, at this level, if you’ve worked hard enough to win a sectional, you’re going to play for 80 straight minutes. And that’s what Morgan Township did. I felt like we started off the second half good. Gabe got that third goal, and then it just was kinda like, ‘Oh, we’re going on.’”
The Argos boys soccer team edged previously undefeated Kouts 3-2 to win the Class 1A Argos regional Saturday. The No. 1 Dragons will play No. 7 Heritage Christian in the semistate at 3 p.m. this Saturday at Kokomo High School.