Class A, No. 17 Southwestern’s run to the regional championship has been sparked by a player unbeknownst to the team prior to the start of the season and a senior that had yet to find his way into the starting lineup.
But in the sectional championship win over Indianapolis Lutheran and the regional semifinal victory over No. 11 Covenant Christian, Constant Martinez and Jonah DeArmitt have combined for a game-winning goal, two assists and a game-ending penalty kick.
Southwestern defeated Lutheran, 2-1, Saturday to collect its third-straight sectional championship. On Wednesday, the Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Covenant Christian in penalty kicks, 3-1, after the game and two overtime periods were not enough to break a 2-2 tie.
Southwestern is one of eight teams left in the Class A boys soccer state tournament. The Spartans (14-2-2) travel to Knightstown Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. regional championship game against Greenwood Christian (9-7-3) with a semistate berth at stake.
Neither school has won a regional championship in boys soccer.
“Our guys were fired up to come out and win this,” said Southwestern head coach Taylor Meredith Wednesday after the regional semifinal contest. “The seniors likes the Stringers and Conner Jewell and Eli Fix that have been on these teams that have gotten so close to winning (a regional championship) … to lose so close the last two years, these guys will be really locked in.”
Southwestern and Greenwood Christian did not meet during the regular season. They do, however, have six common opponents – Trinity Lutheran, Bethesda Christian, Morristown, Greenwood, Lutheran and Oldenburg Academy.
Southwestern went 6-1-1 against the six while the Cougars finished 2-3-1.
Three of Greenwood Christian’s losses this season were to top 20 programs in the Class A state ranking. It’s only win against a ranked opponent came Wednesday, 4-2, over No. 20 Oldenburg Academy.
Southwestern arrives at the regional championship with a balanced squad playing with great confidence. Senior Garreth Stringer leads the Spartans with 24 goals but has just one converted penalty kick in regulation against Covenant Christian in his team’s last two wins.
Seniors Jonah DeArmitt and Owen Stringer and junior Tucker Simmons each have six goals. Martinez, a French exchange student, has five goals and a team-high 10 assists.
“We knew from the start, his passing was unbelievable,” said Meredith of Martinez. “At the beginning of the year, we tried him at forward for maybe a practice but we knew he wasn’t a forward.”
With a new midfielder, the rest of the pieces fell into place.
“(Constant) and Tucker playing side by side have done really well this year,” said Meredith. “Just having (Constant) here is huge. Anytime you can get a guy that plays at that level, that has played their whole life probably at a higher level than all of our kids have played at is a great surprise.”
Martinez scored the game-winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Lutheran. And it was his perfect delivery on goal early in the second half Wednesday that allowed Jewell to head in Southwestern’s first goal against Covenant Christian.
DeArmitt’s six-foot, four-inch frame stands out on a soccer field. He uses his size to screen defenders from the ball and adds a presence when working in front of the net.
His free kick on net set up Southwestern’s first goal against Lutheran and he delivered the throw-in that Martinez headed into goal for the game winner.
On Wednesday, it was DeArmitt who ended the game with a left-footed penalty kick shot into the center of the goal.
DeArmitt is one of the most decorated athletes in school history with three soccer sectional titles to go with a basketball and baseball sectional title.
The regional champion will travel to either to Evansville North or Seymour for the semistate championship on Oct. 22 to face either Christian Academy (12-5-3) or No. 8 Forest Park (13-6-1).
The northern semistate championship will be played at either Kokomo or Chesterton.
At Westview Saturday, No. 1 Westview (18-1-1) hosts No. 10 Wheeler (14-5-1). At Taylor Saturday, No. 4 Faith Christian (15-2-1) faces No. 2 Park Tudor (17-2-1).