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  • Val T.

Two-minute drill: Stults scores twice, leads Argos to regional final

Paul’s PK save, Zahm’s defensive stop help preserve lead, set up regional final vs. Park Tudor


BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

ARGOS — The Carroll (Flora) boys soccer team had just taken a 1-0 lead over Argos in a Class 1A regional semifinal at Eugene Snyder Field Wednesday when senior Sean Richard told his teammates that the game was not over.

Junior teammate Luke Stults was listening. He scored twice in a span of 2:12, first tying the game and then scoring the game-winner and leading Argos to a 2-1 win over the No. 12 Cougars.

Boyd Paul

Goalkeeper Boyd Paul stopped a penalty kick try with 10:18 left to preserve the one-goal lead.

Argos improved to 6-13 and will meet No. 9 Park Tudor in the regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday at Taylor. Park Tudor edged Muncie Burris 3-2 in penalty kicks in their regional semifinal Wednesday.

Argos has won as many postseason games as they did regular season games (three).

Reserve Isaiah Jones scored off an Eli Falkenberg assist for Carroll, who finished 15-5-1.

Carroll’s lead lasted just 37 seconds.

Stults’ first goal started when Mekhi Austin advanced a direct kick to within 30 yards of the box. Kenyan Beldon headed it to where it deflected off Richard and glanced off Carroll’s Jace Hollinger before hopping to Stults, who settled the ball with his head and drilled a shot to the left of Carroll goalkeeper Cohen Miller and in the side of the net.

After neither team had scored for nearly 56 minutes, both teams had scored in a span of 37 seconds.

Sean Richard

“Sean just told us to keep our heads and play hard,” Stults said. “We still had 26 minutes left. And we went down and did what we did. It was really all because of Sean. He told us to all keep our heads up. My head was even down.”

The game-winner might have had a higher degree of difficulty as Stults chipped a high shot from 30 yards away that sailed over Miller’s head and into the upper right corner of the net. Austin had the assist, sending it in the direction of the 18-yard box and seeing it deflect off two Carroll defenders before Stults shot it.

“My second goal, I just dribbled middle and just shot it,” Stults said. “I didn’t think it was going in. I thought it was going way over, but then it started going down, and then it went in the goal, and I was just shocked. You could see in my celebration. I was just shocked. I didn’t think it was going in at all. But it was nice, I guess.”

Stults took on a sense of urgency after Carroll took the lead, according to Argos co-interim coach Damon Binkley.

“We talk about adversity throughout the year, and we always tell the kids, ‘You can lay down and die, or you can get right back up,’” Binkley said. “And they picked the hard path today. They got right back up. And it took hard work, but they responded really well, and I think (for) Luke, maybe that goal was a wake-up call for him to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pick it up.’ And Luke was big for us tonight. He’s capable of that. He’s a great player, and he was potent tonight really.”

Binkley called Miller “outstanding” in net for the Cougars.

“To beat a guy like that, it takes a shot like that,” Binkley said.

Argos held on from there.

Officials awarded Carroll a penalty kick after Argos was called for a hand ball in the box. Paul made a kick save on Jace Hollinger’s penalty kick attempt with his right foot, and with him lying on the ground, Carroll shot high over the goal as his teammates ran to embrace Paul.

It was seemingly instant redemption for Paul. He had let a Falkenberg shot skip off his hands and get behind him less than 16 minutes before that, and Jones pounced on the loose ball and drilled a one-time shot into the empty net.

Paul also stopped four of six penalty kicks in the decisive round against North White in the sectional final Saturday. Paul is filling in for starter Sawyer Crace, who has a hand injury.

“Boyd has answered the call every time,” Binkley said. “Saturday he made a lot of big saves in the shootout. Today I think he knows he made a mistake on the goal. Nobody has to tell you if you did something wrong. You know. And he definitely made up for it. That’s a big save. Kept us in the game. Arguably won it for us. Hats off to Boyd. He’s been huge this year, on the field and in the goal, he’s been pivotal for us, so I’m happy for him. He deserves to play well. He’s a hard-working, good kid.”

Then with just over six minutes left, Austin Owens tripped over the ball on a clearance attempt, and Carroll’s Eli Falkenberg dribbled towards the goal line before centering a pass to Ashton Hollinger.

Paul was out of position as he was covering the near post. Hollinger had an open look inside the far post, but Ben Zahm made a lunging defensive stop on the goal line.

Carroll had one last flurry in the final 35 seconds in front of the Argos goal after a Falkenberg throw-in. The ball pinballed off nine different players before Paul finally fell on the ball with 19 seconds left.

He punted it away as the remaining seconds on the clock elapsed.

“Each guy we had playing the back for us tonight did outstanding,” Binkley said. “I asked them to do a big shot keeping Flora at bay, and they did that, so I’m super proud of the guys. They worked super hard to get here, and they made the most of tonight.”

Argos won again without coach Todd VanDerWeele, who is out due to a “medical issue.” Binkley and Jon Alcorn have been the co-interim coaches, and Joe Kindig and Andy Petz are their assistants.

Beldon, a freshman midfielder, said he was “worried” when Carroll scored the first goal, but he said the players still kept their motivation to win for VanDerWeele.

“I think as we went on and it came to sectionals, I think we all just wanted to win for ‘Moach’ (VanDerWeele),” Beldon said. “I think ‘Moach’ is our main drive. We just wanted that.”

Said Stults of VanDerWeele: “We miss him a lot. It’s obviously different without him, but we’ve adapted to the change, and we still think about him. We play for him. We’ve got to represent him.”


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