UNION TWP. | Opportunities were rare for Chesterton in Thursday's Wheeler Sectional semifinal against Valparaiso, but Colin Ringas cashed in when he had the chance.
The Trojans sophomore was in the right spot at the right time, getting a foot on what started as a free kick at midfield by teammate Evan Coudriet. From about 10 yards to the left of the net, Ringas pushed a shot past Viking keeper A.J. Ratajec with 19:35 remaining.
The goal stood up the rest of the way as Chesterton upset the Times No. 3 Vikings 1-0.
"You can't have a doubt in your head that you're going to miss," Ringas said. "I knew I was going to make it. I just had that feeling inside."
The loss avenged a 4-1 defeat to the Vikings in late August and sent the Trojans (10-6-1) into Saturday's championship against Wheeler, which eliminated Morgan Twp. 2-1.
"We were not expecting to be here right now," Chesterton coach Jamie Sensibaugh said. "But we know we are a different team than we were at the beginning of the season.
"It never matters at sectional time against Valpo. Even if one team is undefeated, it's still going to be a good game."
Both teams seemed to be feeling each other out in the first half, each getting only one shot on goal with no big-time scoring chances.
The Vikings (10-6) started playing more aggressively after falling behind, peppering Chesterton goalie Jacob Garmany with several shots in the final minutes.
Valpo's best chance came with 50 seconds remaining, when senior Ken Kollasch got a good foot on a shot from the top of the box. But Garmany came up with the point-blank save, one of nine for the junior keeper.
Ringas' goal came on Chesterton's only shot of the second half, as Valpo dominated play on its end for most of the game. Coudriet's free kick from just inside the midfield stripe lofted into a perfect spot for Ringas.
"As a whole team we just had a lot more confidence this game," Ringas said. "We're young, but we can't look at it as if everyone is bigger and stronger than us. We're all playing varsity and we can't look at others as being better than us."
It was an especially crushing loss for the Vikings and coach Danny Jeftich. With nine seniors, the season started on a promising note but the team struggled a bit when Nikolas Jeftich went down with a knee injury.
"This one kind of stings," coach Jeftich said. "I feel bad for the seniors, especially my son Nikolas who is hurt. He just got cleared to practice and was going to be able to play if we made it to the regional.
"Our chances were there. It was just very difficult to find a shot because Chesterton is so disciplined defensively. Chesterton defended well and they counterattacked.
"Tonight just wasn't our night."
In the second game, Gavin Voss and Austin Sloboda tallied one goal apiece to lead Wheeler to a 2-1 victory over Morgan Twp.
Voss scored off an assist from Cody Thompson just four minutes into the game for the Bearcats (5-10-2). Voss also was credited with the assist on the Sloboda goal with 19:41 remaining in the first half that turned out to be the game winner.
Freshman Ryan Reynolds scored the lone goal for the Cherokees (8-7-1).