For Argos, a Saed ending: Dragons fall to Fort Wayne Canterbury in PKs
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FORT WAYNE –- With 35 seconds left in the first overtime, Fort Wayne Canterbury’s Evan Komrska fired a 30-yard bullet of a shot over leaping Argos goalkeeper Kurt Johnson.
It hit the crossbar and shot straight down. Time stood still for a split second. No goal.
Argos fans’ breathing patterns were seemingly intermittent all night in a battle with the No. 1 Cavaliers in a Class 2A, Sectional 22 semifinal at Canterbury’s Hancock Field Oct. 6.
They survived yet another attempt by Fort Wayne Canterbury to take the lead.
But alas, the only things that go down harder than 10-year sectional winning streaks are top-ranked teams on their home field.
Fort Wayne Canterbury went on to beat Argos 1-0 in penalty kicks in a matchup between the 2020 Class 1A state runner-up and the 2020 Class 2A state runner-up.
Fort Wayne Canterbury outscored Argos 4-2 in penalty kicks after 80 scoreless minutes of regulation play and two scoreless seven-minute overtime periods.
The PKs were tied 2-2 after each team’s first three kicks. John Shoppell and Octavius Ogubi had scored for Fort Wayne Canterbury. Vladimir Bernard and Kayden Brady scored for Argos.
In round 4, Abdalla Hammad scored for Fort Wayne Canterbury. Jake Stults missed wide left.
That brought up Saed Anabtawi. The Cavalier goalkeeper, he took off his fluorescent orange goalkeeper’s jersey and put on a black Canterbury jersey and beat Johnson with the game-winning kick.
That led to a celebration at midfield. Anabtawi had made a diving stop to his right on Argos’ first attempt.
“They’re very organized defensively, and their goalkeeper Saed is probably the best goalkeeper I’ve seen since I’ve coached,” Todd VanDerWeele, who has been the Argos coach since 2008, said. “It was described to me that he is a Division I prospect, and I absolutely believe that. It’s not just that he’s a good goal minder. The way he distributes is so quick, and he can ping a pass from 50 yards, which starts their counters, and that’s where they get you.”
The crossbar might have helped Johnson on Komrska’s shot in the first overtime, but he might have matched Anabtawi save for save otherwise.
Johnson leaped to deflect a Komrska shot over the top of the goal with 13:05 left in the first half and made a highlight-film save on Abdalla with 50 seconds left in the half.
He also stopped Doolittle with 6:15 left in regulation and Ogubi in the final minute of regulation. He also had two saves in the second overtime.
“Kurt Johnson was as good as Canterbury’s keeper,” VanDerWeele said. “He was engaged the whole time. Every now and then, as most boys do as goalkeepers, they fade out. But he was focused the entire time. He was in command of the box. He was reading them very well because not very often was he out of position on the shot. And some of the saves he made look easy because of the work he did before they shot the ball. And that’s just a credit to him and how much he’s developed not just over the four years but even this year, and he kept us in the game.”
VanDerWeele also praised his four main defenders – Nate Manikowski and Vladimir Bernard on the outside and Brady and Dylan Kindig on the inside.
“The back four really helped too,” VanDerWeele said. “They played well. They played together, compact. They didn’t make any mistakes.”
With Argos defending at a high level, the game became a grinding defensive struggle.
“Both teams played very hard, and they defended very, very well,” Fort Wayne Canterbury coach Greg Mauch said. “I think their goalie had 14 saves or something like that. That’s an outstanding night. Some of those saves were fantastic too.”
Canterbury was led by Komrska, a sturdily built 6-1 forward who was known for his swift runs down the middle of the field; center midfielder Donovan Doolittle, a ballhandling wizard; and Anabtawi, a rangy junior keeper who at 6-2 could touch the top of the net without jumping.
Fort Wayne Canterbury is also known for an impenetrable defense: They had allowed just six goals in 14 games before facing Argos.
But the Dragons held up against the Cavaliers’ speed and physicality, according to VanDerWeele.
“I thought we did a decent job,” VanDerWeele said. “Of course, we’ve got a lot of big, strong guys, and I think that helped combat that. I think balls they’re used to winning, they didn’t win as easily. We did give them a lot through the midfield, and there were some times we let them through, but the times we were able to keep them sideways, I thought we really frustrated them, and they were angry with each other for large portions of the game. Frustrated. We had some chances. … We were a little antsy at first. We settled down. We stopped trying to steal the ball on their dribble. We made them go sideways, and it made our job a lot easier.
“I’m not sure what else we could have done. They’re a fantastic team.”
Argos’ Michael Richard was left on deck as his his career and the careers of nine of his teammates came to an end: Stults, Brady, Johnson, Teddy Redinger, Wyatt Tanner, Ben Rangel, Connor Tracy, Caleb Rakoczy and Dylan Kindig are the other graduates who had their sophomore seasons end in a state championship game win over Indianapolis Lutheran and their junior seasons end in a state title game loss to Providence.
“In a game like that, the first thing you do is give everything, and these guys did,” VanDerWeele said. “I can’t fault our effort. I would say 99 times out of 100, we would have made it to the next round. It just happened we ran into a team that was a little better in a PK shootout tonight.”
Argos had beaten Culver Academy in penalty kicks to clinch the Northern Indiana Soccer Conference title six days earlier. VanDerWeele acknowledged that winning in PKs requires “a little bit of luck.”
Mauch, who has coached Fort Wayne Canterbury since 1983 and who was inducted into the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005, said they marked Argos’ Teddy Redinger, whom he called a “dangerous player” very well while keeping defensive balance. He also said the midfielders prevented Argos players serving Redinger.
He also said Anabtawi gives the defenders confidence because he can wipe out any mistakes they make, including a stop on Ethan Petz on a counter with 20:20 left in regulation.
Mauch is also quite aware of Argos’ historical soccer success.
“They’ve got a long history and a long tradition,” Mauch said. “It’s obviously somebody I’ve respect for a long time. We started playing Argos back when Tim Van Duyne was coaching. We got back a little ways, and they’ve always been a fiercely competitive team. I think they do a phenomenal job.”
VanDerWeele was asked how important belief is when playing a team like Fort Wayne Canterbury. A seven-time state champion, Fort Wayne Canterbury has perhaps the greatest tradition in IHSAA boys soccer.
“All of it,” VanDerWeele answered. “I have had teams that have had talent and gone into games like this and just not believed in themselves, and we’ve lost. Maybe we would have lost, but we wouldn’t have given ourselves a chance. These guys gave themselves a chance tonight by the way they played.
“They believed in themselves. They believed in each other, and they gave the effort, and that’s why we were in the game.”
Argos Keeper Kurt Johnson Argos’ Michael Richard finished his prep soccer career with 28 goals and 15 assists.