Terre Haute North vs Terre Haute South, under the lights, on a neutral field, with the winner advancing to the 3A Bloomington South boys soccer sectional championship.
It sounds like the description of a award-winning film, and Wednesday, the rivalry game lived up to a billing worthy of that.
And if Tuesday’s game was the first of the sagas for the Braves, Wednesday was the perfect sequel, as they were able to find the back of the net in the final minutes to win 1-0 and punch their ticket to Saturday’s title game.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s always fun to beat your rival, but you don’t want to end their season either, especially because we’re all friends,” South coach John Stephens said. “I hate to see their season end because of it, but I’m proud of the boys and how hard they fought the last two nights.”
It was obvious by the body language from the beginning what this game meant for each group.
And if those playing, or in attendance, weren’t aware, South’s Eli Storey informed them by yelling “this is it, boys” at midfield seconds before the game got underway.
Neither team managed to get the ball into shooting range for nearly the entire first half of action, as the ball stayed in the center of the field most of the 40 minutes.
Near the 10-minute mark of the initial half, though, the Patriot fans let out of gasp that was quickly followed by a loud cheer.
On the near-goal for South, North’s Brandon Wessel was attempting to clear the ball out of the box, but when he went to swing with his left foot, he slipped on the damp grass, causing him to miss.
Waiting nearby was South’s Brock Barger, who tried for a sliding shot, but it was picked out of the air by North goalkeeper Adam Waters, keeping the game at a scoreless tie.
“Their defense was really strong tonight,” aid Stephens of North. “We couldn’t find a hole. We could not get behind them, we could not get through them, we could not get over them.”
North didn’t have as many close calls on the offensive end in the first half, although Mason Unger sent a low line drive whizzing towards the net on a free kick that was picked out of the air by South goalkeeper Kade Kline.
The scoreless draw carried over into the second half, as the ball stayed near midfield for through the first half of the final 40 minutes of regulation.
Neither could get a clean shot off, but continued to encourage each other to remain focused as the urgency built with time ticking off the clock.
For South, this was a place it had been just 24 hours prior when Jalen Clark saved the day with two goals in the final seven minutes to eek past Bedford North Lawrence.
Who would be Wednesday’s hero? That was answered at the 4:25 mark when Tyler Peterson broke away from the scrum.
He went to the ground, as Waters slid to attempt the save, but Peterson got just enough behind the ball to get it into the net, putting the Braves ahead 1-0.
At the beginning of the season, Peterson may not have been the player picked to score a sectional semifinal game-winning goal, as he began the year on the junior varsity roster.
But Stephens said the junior earned his promotion to the varsity team, and Wednesday, he proved that by etching his name into North-South boys soccer lore.
“He has a head for the goal,” Stephens said of Peterson. “He knows where the goals at. He has great shots and he’s aggressive. He just wants the ball.”
South kept North off the board the rest of the way, setting up a rematch for the Braves against the hosts in Bloomington South, a team the Braves knocked off in the regular season.
“I’m excited to see Bloomington South again,” said Stephens of Saturday’s title tilt. “We squeezed by them in the first game. It was a 50-50 game where each team had equal opportunities.”
Terre Haute South will take on Bloomington South, which defeated Bloomington North 2-0 in the first of Wednesday’s semifinals, in Saturday afternoon’s sectional championship.