South Knox and Rivet have claimed five of the last six Class A sectional titles, and it seems likely one of them is going to make it six out of seven next week as the area boys soccer sectionals get underway on Monday.
Of course five other teams, including North Knox, hope to knock off the Spartans or Patriots in the South Knox Sectional. Lincoln, a 2A soccer school, travels to Washington for its sectional.
The Alices (3-13-1) get things started Monday when they face Pike Central at 7:45 p.m. The South Knox Sectional starts Monday too, but none of the Knox County teams play. On Tuesday, the eighth-ranked Spartans (15-0-1) play Washington Catholic at 6 p.m., and Rivet (8-7-2) follows against Mitchell at 8 p.m. Those winners play the nightcap at 8 p.m. Wednesday, while the Warriors (7-9-1) play the opener against the winner of Monday’s match, White River Valley or Bloomfield, at 6 p.m.
The championship games are next Saturday, 2 p.m. at Washington and 3 p.m. at South Knox.
With a ranking and an unbeaten record, South Knox appears to be a clear favorite. The Spartans own lopsided victories over the entire field except Rivet, which was the only team to prevent South Knox from multiple goals in a 1-0 loss.
Coach Tim Goodwin said there’s no added pressure on the Spartans, who opponents have been targeting because of their unbeaten mark and high ranking in the state.
“They really haven’t even celebrated (being undefeated),” Goodwin said. “They keep talking about how they don’t want to end up like last year (a sectional semifinal loss to Shoals). That’s been the main focus. To this day, practices are loose, and they’re a lot of fun. They’ve worked hard all year and they continue working on things for the tournament.”
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South Knox has put up a whopping 111 goals while yielding just nine, and Goodwin wasn’t sure which unit was better between offense and defense. The goal scorers are seniors Tristen Dubbs and Eli Thomas, who already surpassed the previous school-record mark of 26. Dubbs has 35 and Thomas 34, and they rank fourth and fifth in the state. But the most impressive number is by senior Avery Gerkin, who leads the nation with an astounding 46 assists, also a school record. Gerkin’s added 15 goals, while Dubbs, Thomas and junior Collin Myers have double-digit assists.
The defense is led by senior Chase Donaldson, with sophomore Tristian Wirth and freshman Dakota Candler playing key roles. Senior keeper Trevor Malott has racked up nine clean sheets.
“The kids play as a cohesive unit, and it’s neat to listen to them talk and communicate on the field. They’re a tight group,” Goodwin said. “We just need to play our game like we’ve done all year. (Rivet) finished strong the last half the year, which we kind of expected, and we’re looking forward to that matchup.
“The kids are excited about being at home, under the lights. We have a great facility. The school has put a lot of money into it, and it’s paying off.”
Rivet is the reigning sectional champion, and the Patriots would like to play spoiler on their way to repeating. Offensively Rivet is led by senior Wesley Murawski with nine goals and three assists. Junior Charlie Niehaus is next with eight goals and four assists, and senior Cedric Schleiss is the facilitator with five goals and 11 assists. Senior Noah Donovan patrols the midfield, while senior keeper Aaron Wyatt and classmates Trevon Taylor and Austin Finch shoulder the defensive load.
Rivet carries a three-game winning streak into the sectional, including wins in five of its last six with the only loss coming against No. 11 Providence, 2-0. Another thing giving Rivet hope is that Murawski missed the first meeting with South Knox due to injury.
“We’ve definitely improved, and we’ll try to be the underdog and surprise South Knox,” Rivet coach Thierry Schleiss said. “Obviously we have to get past Mitchell, but we know the road goes through South Knox. We feel we’ve improved since then, but I’m sure they feel they have as well.
“I keep coming back to our defense. We were inexperienced coming into the season, and they’ve just shown great improvement. We’re cautiously optimistic. We’ve played at their place, and they dominated us the first half, but we leveled off after that. We’re healthy now, and we’re going in reasonably confident.”
North Knox hasn’t lost at home this season, and its hoping to carry that positive energy to the south side of the county. The Warriors tied White River Valley and suffered a 3-1 loss to Bloomfield, the first win in the program’s two-year history, but either way they have a winnable game in the semifinals. If they do get through that round, coach Robert Cullen expected to see a county foe in the final.
“I don’t like to name a favorite because we all have the same goal, to win a sectional,” Cullen said. “South Knox and Rivet have very good teams, and they both played well against us. It should be a good sectional for fans, and hopefully we can be a team that’s hard to play against. Our goal is to win the sectional, but first we have to get through Wednesday.”
Junior Conner Hartzburg leads North Knox with eight goals and nine assists. Junior Cole Jones has seven goals and six assists, and sophomore Todd Wolfe has seven goals. Senior Dennis Stalcup is the primary goalkeeper.
The Alices have struggled after a 2-0 start and the sectional doesn’t make things any easier. Lincoln carries a six-match losing streak into the tournament, but it’s still been a much-improved season considering the team was winless over the last two years.
Senior Lucas Hunt is the Lincoln keeper, but he’s made an impact on offense as well. Likewise, freshman Jonathan Soderling has had success in goal and on offense, and sophomore Jason Ramirez has been a primary scorer too.
Based on the rankings, the host and fifth-ranked Hatchets are the favorites, but No. 18 Gibson Southern and Pike Central, which upset the Titans last week, could also be in the mix. If the Alices can knock off the Chargers, they play at 6 p.m. Wednesday, likely against Washington.
Class A - South Knox
6 — White River Valley (5-9-1) vs. Bloomfield (1-9-1)
6 — South Knox (15-0-1) vs. Washington Catholic (2-12-1)
8 — Rivet (8-7-2) vs. Mitchell (2-12-1)
6 — North Knox (7-9-1) vs. Monday's winner
8 — Tuesday's winners
3 — Championship
Class 2A - Washington
6 — Washington (13-3-1) vs. Southridge (3-8-1)
7:45 — Lincoln (3-13-1) vs. Pike Central (10-6-1)
6 — Monday's winners
7:45 — Gibson Southern (12-4-1) vs. Princeton (11-5)
2 — Championship