‘Moach’ to be thankful for: Paul’s save in PKs caps Argos’ 12th sectional in 13 years
Dragons thinking of coach VanDerWeele after dramatic win over North White
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Argos boys soccer team defeated North White 2-1 in sudden death penalty kicks in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final at Argos’ Eugene Snyder Field Saturday. The sectional title is Argos’ 12th in the last 13 years. Argos will host Carroll (Flora) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in a regional semifinal.
ARGOS — Argos senior boys soccer player Jackson Kindig is rarely called on to take a penalty kick, but he practices them just for a particular moment.
Against North White in the Class 1A, Sectional 37 final at Eugene Snyder Field Saturday, he made his kick just like he practiced: Aim for the lower-right hand corner of the net.
Then it came down to goalkeeper Boyd Paul, who was only playing because regular starter Sawyer Crace has a hand injury.
Paul leaped up to stop Fernando Velazquez’s kick to set off a mob scene by the goal. Argos had beaten North White 2-1 in sudden death penalty kicks to win its second straight sectional title and its 12th sectional in the last 13 years.
Argos improved to 5-13 and will host No. 12 Carroll (Flora) in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Carroll topped No.
3 Faith Christian 1-0 to win the Sectional 38 title.
Paul ran around with his arms raised in victory while other Argos players ran over to console North White goalkeeper Kobie Sparks in an act of sportsmanship.
And while that was going on, the Argos bench was busy FaceTiming coach Todd VanDerWeele, who they affectionately call “Moach” and who is not with the team as he recuperates from a “medical issue.”
“He’s not here, but he’s definitely here in our thoughts,” Argos interim coach Damon Binkley said. “I think a lot of the guys wanted to come out here and win it for Todd. He’s been a big motivator when he’s here and just as big a motivator when he’s not here.”
Junior midfielder Ben Zahm’s job was to keep Cristian Palma and Jose Paz from affecting the game. Move the ball from side to side and get every first ball out of the air. Palma had four goals in a 5-0 win over Caston in the semifinals Wednesday. Paz had the only goal in a 1-0 win over North Miami in the quarterfinals Monday.
“Especially when it went to overtime and PKs, we were all talking, ‘We have to do this for ‘Moach,’” junior midfielder Ben Zahm said. “And before we started PKs, he was on FaceTime with one of the coaches, so we saw him, and we told him we were doing this for him.”
Said senior Sean Richard: “We wanted to do it for him. He means a lot to us.”
Velazquez, a freshman, scored for North White, who finished 9-8-1.
Argos had a 14-5 advantage in shoots on goal and a 17-1 edge in corner kicks.
“I thought we were a bit unlucky to not get it done early, but North White’s defense played strong today, especially their goalkeeper,” Binkley said. “Their
goalkeeper had an outstanding game.
team in it and took us down to the wire, quite literally about as close as you could get it. It was a good game.”
Their only goal in regulation came into the wind when Luke Stults fed Ethan Petz just 11 seconds into the game. Stults’ pass went across the goal mouth and landed right on Petz’s foot running in full stride. He popped it into an empty net.
“We definitely wanted to come out strong,” Petz said. “I wasn’t expecting to score that fast, but when the opportunity comes, you’ve just got to take it, and I took it. I put my life on the line. I kinda hurt my thumb a lot, but it was worth it. … Luke is such a great playmaker.”
Binkley had emphasized getting off to a strong start.
“Getting a goal in the first five minutes was
my hope,” Binkley said. “We got one in the
first 11 seconds.”
Velazquez’s equalizer came with 11:03 left in the half, popping a goal from the right wing into the back left corner.
With the wind at their backs, Argos continued to pepper the North White goal, and Sparks flew as the North White keeper repeatedly left his feet to make scintillating stops.
Argos had nine shots and 14 corner kicks in the second half alone.
“He was athletic,” Kindig said. “He was tall, and he was athletic. He was saving everything in the second half. I got a little worried there.”
But neither team scored in the second half or in either of the seven-minute overtime periods.
In the first round of penalty kicks, each team made two of their first four kicks. Kenyan Beldon and Petz made theirs while Sparks stopped Elias Rakoczy and Stults.
Richard, a senior defender who was playing
just his second game in four weeks after
recovering from a sprained ankle, had a chance to win the game, but Sparks stopped him.
Richard was briefly distraught. The one time in the last 13 years Argos did not win the sectional was in 2021 when Argos lost to top-ranked Fort Wayne Canterbury in a 2A sectional quarterfinal in penalty kicks. Richard was a sophomore, and his older brother Michael had his career end in that game.
He rehabbed his ankle just to make it back and got about 15 minutes of playing time in an 8-0 win over Culver in the semifinals Wednesday. He admitted that he was “out of shape” and that he was cramping during the game.
Now it was possible that Sean Richard’s career could end the same way his brother’s did.
Kindig and Paul made sure that did not happen. Richard later said the team came closer with him out because they could no longer depend on his presence.
“It feels amazing for my senior year to win with my buddies and Boyd, of course,” Richard said. “Definitely in the second half, I feel like we had multiple opportunities, but … they just never went in, and they were pretty solid, and their goalkeeper was amazing, so I give him a lot of credit. I remember I had a header, and he blocked it and a couple shots that he flung over the goal, so I was really impressed.”
North White’s Alan Maravilla could have won the game, but his kick sailed over the net.
In fact, the last four North White kickers all missed against Paul after Palma and Paz made theirs. Paul said he started the season in the field but returned to goalkeeper after Crace’s injury. He said he’s been a goalkeeper “off and on” for four years.
“We do 10 a practice,” Paul said when asked how often he works at stopping penalty kicks. “I tend to read them and see which way they’re going. And then I try to fake one way and try and get them to go one way for sure, and once I know for sure, I just go. … That’s pretty much what happened on all the ones I saved.”
Binkley said he only had two practices as a goalkeeper before his first game.
“Boyd has answered every call he’s had this year,” Binkley said. “He couldn’t have played that shootout any better.”
As for Kindig, when he practices taking penalty kicks, it’s Paul who is usually in goal. So Paul knew where Kindig was going to shoot, but the moment was too nerve-wracking for him to watch.
“There are times in practice that’s the only spot I’d go,” Kindig said. “I even asked Boyd after. He knows where I go every time. I told him after the game that he knew exactly where I was going, and he said he had to turn around, so he couldn’t watch it. He’s the only one that knows my game.”
The celebration got rowdy enough during the trophy presentation that the small chrome soccer player on the trophy broke off.
And then their thoughts returned to VanDerWeele.
Paul called VanDerWeele a “big part of the team.”
“We’re always thinking about ‘Moach,’” Petz said. “We want the best for him. We're all praying for him. We’re hoping he’ll make a good recovery, and this win was definitely for him.
“We wanted to win this sectional for him, and we did just that.”