Petz, Stults score, lead Argos past North White for sectional title
Up next: at No. 4 Faith Christian in regional semis at 5 p.m. Wednesday
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ARGOS — One of the boys soccer teams that played in the Class 1A, Sectional 37 final at Argos’ Eugene Snyder Field Saturday night came in 3-14.
The other team came ranked No. 17 in the state.
Given that, it might be considered a surprise if the 3-14 team wins, but the 3-14 team in this case was Argos. At Argos, the standard is high, the schedule is tough, and the first week in October is typically theirs.
It was again Saturday as the Dragons got goals from Ethan Petz and Luke Stults to edge North White 2-1.
“It feels great,” Petz said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted since I was a kid.”
The Dragons, now 4-14, will travel to No. 4 Faith Christian for a regional semifinal game at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Faith Christian topped Argos 9-0 in their regular season meeting on Aug. 26.
North White was involved in another nailbiter after overtime wins over North Miami and Caston to get to the final, but they finished 9-9-1.
Jose Paz scored with 2:11 to go for North White on a 20-yard strike to cut the Argos lead in half, but that came after two airborne saves from freshman goalkeeper Sawyer Crace. After Paz’s goal, the Argos defense was able to play keep away, and the jubilant Dragons celebrated on the field as time expired.
“They finally realized that we can do it,” Argos coach Todd VanDerWeele said of his players. “And they’ve come together really nicely. Any team, you want to see come together as you did. Everyone was excited. The guys on the field, that made me feel real good.”
While this was Argos’ 11th sectional title in 12 years since the expansion of the state tournament format into multiple classes, they often were the favorite going into the sectional. This felt different, according to VanDerWeele.
“To me, wins and losses don’t matter,” VanDerWeele said. “I know everyone’s going to chuckle, but I would much rather see a good soccer game and doing the things right, and that’s what took us awhile. We can do that and that we can do it for 80 minutes. We have finally convinced ourselves that we can do that. It just took a lot longer, but we have a lot of inexperience and guys that played 70-minute games last year as JV or 60-minute games last year as middle school players, they had to adjust to that. It just took awhile to learn that and also to deal with the huge schools that we’ve played all year. It was an adjustment, but we’re coming along nicely right now.”
Petz scored the first goal with 30:09 left in the first half on a rebound after North White goalkeeper Samuel Montes stopped his first try on a header.
“At first, I thought I got the goal off the header, which would have been insane because I’ve never scored a header,” Petz said. “It was a fantastic save. And then I looked up, I saw the ball didn’t go in, it was right in front of the goal, so I just kicked it. After that … it’s indescribable. It’s the best thing.”
That 1-0 lead held up until Stults’ shot went off the left post and deflected into the back of the net with 3:27 to go. Stults said that when he saw the ball hit the post that he thought it was going to bounce back into the field of play. Instead, it bounced into the net.
“It feels good,” Stults said. “It’s the first time for me as a sophomore. It’s a surreal experience. I hope we can make it farther in the tourney and keep this good run up.”
Stults said the coaches preached to the team every day that they were capable of this. As for Stults himself, he has morphed into more of a goal-scoring role as the season has progressed.
“I started off as a defender,” Stults said. “And then I progressively moved my way up to the top, and I just recently moved to winger, so I can attack outside because I’m quicker. And then, I’ve just been more of an offensive threat now rather than playing defense.”
Meanwhile, Argos was able to keep North White’s top two scorers, Andie Menjivar and Kobie Sparks, off the board. They combined to score 45 of North White’s 62 goals coming into the game. Menjivar is a lightning quick playmaker and Sparks is a physical force around the net.
“There were two things that I noticed they did initially,” VanDerWeele said. “11 (Menjivar), who’s fantastic by the way … he really played well. He was close to A.J. a lot. Not every time did A.J. know he was there, but there were a few times A.J. held onto the ball too long and got dispossessed because 11 was close, so that was one thing they did. The other thing they did is they kind of tried to take Luke out of the game. And they did for a long while. They had the tall kid on him (Andrew Buswell), and there was somebody else who was close, and he was struggling to figure it out. So that was something we dealt with.
“I think we let up a little bit at that time as the first half went on. We got comfortable, and they tried to push. But I thought the second half started the same way as the first. They obviously started pushing as they got more desperate. Sawyer made a couple great saves in the last 15 minutes.”
Argos junior defender Sean Richard also held down Sparks, who had a hat trick against Caston on Wednesday.
“Sean is our rock,” VanDerWeele said. “He’s the communicator. He’s the one that keeps everything organized. Tonight, he just took it upon himself that anything that was close was his ball, and I think he won every challenge he was close to.”
The Argos boys soccer team edged No. 17 North White 2-1 Saturday in the Class 1A, Sectional 37 final at Argos’ Eugene Snyder Field. Argos (4-14) will travel to No. 4 Faith Christian at 5 p.m. Wednesday in a regional semifinal.