Carmel – It was all falling apart for the Zionsville boys soccer team.
The Eagles has led their regional final with Greenfield-Central 4-0 late in the first half, but saw the Cougars score three unanswered goals to get within 4-3 with 15 still to play.
But when they needed to dig deep, Zionsville delivered, holding off the Greenfield-Central push for the final minutes and claimed the regional title for the second-straight year.
“We went up 4-0, and I think we kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit,” Zionsville head coach Rob Jordan said. “You have to give them all the credit, because they came flying at us.
The game couldn’t have started much better for the Eagles.
Zionsville went up 1-0 with 30:05 to go in the first half when a corner was knocked into the net by a Greenfield-Central defender.
Four minutes later the Eagles doubled the lead on another corner when Chris Freeman headed home a cross.
It looked like a blowout was coming when Jackson Iler knocked in a long throw-in three minutes later to make it 3-0.
“We have scored a lot of goals off set pieces,” Jordan said. “We practice those a lot, and when you have the height we have and other guys that can get up in the air, we want to take advantage of that as much as we can and it showed. It is a big part of our offense.”
The lead became 4-0 late in the first half with a long-range strike from Ben Weidner.
It was the third long-range goal from three different players in the post-season for the Eagles.
Chris Freeman scored from distance in the sectional final, and Josh Kuller added a long-range goal in the regional semifinal Saturday morning.
Jordan said his players have the green light to shoot when they have an opening.
“We have some guys who have strong legs,” Jordan said. “Ben had a fantastic goal tonight, and you saw Josh have a great one this morning – these guys are all capable of hitting from 30-, 35-yards out. We have no problem that if they have an opening for them to take it.”
Jordan it was the perfect start for his team in the first half.
“That was a really good stretch, but it’s not unusual for us,” Jordan said. “When we get clicking and doing what we should, we do some really good things. It’s when we get out of our game that we struggle.”
Then it became a matter of holding on.
The Cougars cut the lead to 4-1 at the half, then added a goal with 20 minutes remaining in the second half to make it 4-2.
With 14:57 left, they scored to make it 4-3, and make it a nervy ending for the Eagles.
“We lost a bit of composure in the second half, and I think that led to our problems,” Jordan said. “But overall, it is about surviving and advancing, and that is the bottom line. We have to clean up some of the defensive things, and it’s not just the backs, its the whole team. In the first half, we did a great job of defending in the middle, because that was the strength of their team. In the second half, we didn’t do it as well. But overall, we did well, and they are a very good team.”
In the morning semifinal against Cathedral, the Eagles won 3-2.
Josh Kuller gave the Eagles the lead with a long-range strike, but the Irish immediately came down to tie the game 1-1.
Alex Carr scored with 25:26 to play to make it 2-1, then added another with 10:18 to play to make it 3-1.
The Irish scored with 2:27 to play, but the Eagles held on.
Zionsville (19-0-0) will face Columbus East (17-0-3) in the semi-state next Saturday. The game will be played at Seymour at 5 p.m.