Boys soccer: Kalida edges New Knoxville in sectional finals

The ninth-seeded New Knoxville Rangers came into Kalida to take on the fourth-seeded Wildcats in a Saturday afternoon Division III boys soccer sectional final after defeating Ottawa-Glandorf 4-1 Wednesday.

Kalida, despite having to deal with injuries, was able to turn the Rangers away 3-2.

The Wildcats scored the first goal in the first 10 minutes when junior forward Braylon Smith hit the back of the net.

The teams went back and forth trying to build momentum to get down the field and score.

Then, at the nine-minute mark, Smith had the ball once again, and a slide tackle in the box from New Knoxville gave him a penalty kick. However, the Rangers junior goalkeeper Preston Rutschilling came up a dive block to prevent a goal.

The following play, after a corner kick, Rangers’ defenders were quick to hustle in front of the goal and prevent another Kalida score with two consecutive headers to get the ball behind the goal and out of bounds.

However, on the next play, after the ball was brought down the field the other way on a penalty from Kalida, the Wildcats were able to go on the attack and push the ball down the field to Smith, who was able to shoot and score in the eighth minute to make it 2-0 for the final score of the first half.

In the second half, Kalida had to deal with another injury as senior goalkeeper Brady Fersch had to leave the match at halftime. New Knoxville took advantage and controlled the ball most of the second half. Then, at the 24 minute mark,

the Rangers capitalized as senior midfielder Andrew Leffel took a pass to the middle top of the box, made a juke, and kicked a rocket of a shot to the left back of the net with a defender on him, to make it 2-1.

Later, the Rangers were still in control on both sides of the ball. Kalida had a minute where it looked close, but the Rangers defense stopped the Wildcats.

Then, at the 18 minute mark, the Rangers were close to another goal when a shot in open space from 15 yards away that was blocked by Kalida.

Kalida was close again in the 13th minute, but the Rangers defenders came up with a group effort for the save and kept their hopes alive.

Later in the half, New Knoxville continued to dominate. even into the closing minutes. At the five-minute mark, a free kick from the right side 25 yards out saw a commotion in the box, and somehow senior forward Troy Dwenger ended up with

the ball and produced a quick kick, as the ball rolled to the left corner of the goalpost and in, to tie this game up at two goals each. The Rangers scored two unanswered goals in 20 minutes. Kalida injuries took a toll on the team.

With minutes left, the teams looked to score and end the game before extra time.

That’s when Kalida stepped up its game and went on the attack. However, with 20 seconds left in the match, a red card was called on the Rangers when a cleat went to the back of a Kalida player near the sidelines midfield after the play. This led to a penalty goal kick for Smith, where he once again scored a goal with a fast shot to the top right corner, his third of the day, to give the Wildcats the win.

Injuries have played a huge role for Kalida the last few weeks.

Kalida head coach Ryan Berkemeier knew this had taken a toll on the team, and knew the Wildcats will have to overcome adversity if they want to keep advancing.

“We had some injuries there. Definitely been battling through injuries the last few weeks actually, with three of my starters and my goalkeeper out for the rest of the game after going out at halftime. He’s a big part of our team. A couple of other injuries lingering on throughout the game that I couldn’t keep them on the field the whole time, so that didn’t help.”

Coach Birkemeier also spoke about how his team’s struggled, but was happy with the outcome of the match.

“I’m glad we pulled it off. We knew it was a going to be a battle … my team is one of those teams that can play with the best, but then you never know which team is going to show up … I was disappointed in our effort in the second half. They definitely outworked us the entire second half, but I’m glad we were able to push forward and get the win at the end, that’s all we can ask for … two nothing is the worst lead to have at halftime. You go in thinking you have the game won. I told them that, you got to think its zero to zero and keep playing as hard as you can, especially if it’s your last game of the season. You can’t get comfortable.”

The Wildcats will play host to Miller City at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Justin Dierkes wrote this story for Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.