Mustangs return to D4 final

HEPBURNVILLE — Defense won the day for Midd-West in its 3-1 District 4 Class AA boys soccer semifinal victory over the second-seeded Central Columbia Blue Jays at the Balls Mills soccer complex on Tuesday.

“We feel good — I mean, any time you can get into a district final you’re excited about it,” Mustangs coach Chris Sauer said. “I’m excited because we played better tonight. We were still tough defensively, we’ve been tough defensively for most of the season. But finishing off those chances, you don’t get as many chances at this level.”

From the start of the game, the Mustangs were very aggressive toward the Blue Jays and quickly began attacking the net. Midd-West had several chances to score early as both Cole Sauer and Keenan Dietz had great looks at the net, but each time their shots were either blocked or the ball sailed away from the goal.

The Mustangs kept constant pressure on Central Columbia throughout the first half as the Blue Jays struggled to get the ball out of their side of the field and also were forced into commiting numerous turnovers.

Eventually the pressure paid off as Wyatt Shawver found Jesse Randolph with 26:13 reamaining to give Midd-West a 1-0 lead. From there on it was all Mustangs as they never let up for the remainder of the half, allowing the Blue Jays only a few moments on their side of the field before forcing Central Columbia into more turnovers.

Midd-West added another goal with less than 90 seconds before the half  as Randolph struck again, this time with some assistance from Cole Sauer, giving the Mustangs a 2-0 lead going into the break.

“It was a great first half, we stepped up we played well from the start,” Chris Sauer said. “We did what we worked on and what we talked about. We thought Central didn’t defend well on the back side very well and whether it was a big ball in the air or a split between their outside back and their center back. We wanted to hit that space and we hit.

“Jesse was there to finish,” Sauer continued. “Exactly where we talked about, they stuck to what I’d asked them to do and got a good result.”

The second half had a lot in common with the first with Midd-West going right at the Blue Jays and attacking their net. Central Columbia continued to struggle with getting the ball away from the net — everytime Central Columbia had the ball the Mustangs were right on it. Cole Sauer was able to tack on another goal with 24 minutes remaining in the game with some help from Carter Knepp.

Not long after the Sauer goal, though, the Mustangs got caught being too aggressive, which led to a Central Columbia penalty kick. Matt Yoder converted it successfully, cutting the lead to 3-1. But it was the only shot on goal the Blue Jays had against Midd-West keeper Tyler Martin in the entire game.

“They did their job,” Sauer praised. “Each guy was focusing on what they had to do and it made everybody elses job easier and it was nice to see. To come out and to limit them to a PK as their only scoring chance, I mean thats a great defensive effort front to back.”

The Mustangs (16-3-1) will move on to their third straight district final appearance, a date against top seed Lewisburg — also back for the third time against Midd-West — on Thursday back here at Balls Mills. Lewisburg topped Danville 4-0 to advance.

“Maybe third time’s a charm, we will see,” Sauer joked.