MUNSTER | Alejandro Contreras can punt like he's on the moon, so all he needs is a lead and he'll handle the rest.
An early goal allayed some nervousness, and the Clark junior goalkeeper had 10 saves as his Pioneers eliminated Hammond 2-0 in one semifinal of the Class 2A Munster Sectional.
"They were throwing some pretty good shots at me," Contreras said. "I just had to get back to basics, watching the ball and the players and where they were."
Clark (13-3) moves on to play in its sixth consecutive sectional final; they'll face host Munster (14-3-1), which is gunning for its 10th consecutive sectional title, at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Both the Pioneers and the Mustangs used second-minute goals to cruise into the championship. Munster won 7-0 as senior Zarko Coric headed two of his three goals home and added an assist.
In the opener Clark took the opening kick and pushed backward before mounting a forward charge of more than 10 passes, capped by Cesar Monroy's goal.
"That really settled us down, settled the jitters," Clark coach Jorge Torres said. "Everyone is really tense, but that helped a lot.
"We don't have a star; we have a team that works well together."
Although Clark has been to five straight sectional finals and lost each time, this year they have extra motivation. The summer shooting death of would-be senior Jorge "Torta" Serrano rallied the team, and his memory has continued to be a source of inspiration.
"We got together after that, and we're a family," Contreras said.
Contreras, a third-year starter, has benefited from the team's first-year goalie coach, Eberardo Cuadra, who said he worked with Contreras on leaps for days on end in the summer. The exercises came in handy as Contreras twice leaped to block shots that were coming in just below the crossbar.
Junior Eduardo Navarro and sophomore Pedro Hernandez had several quality scoring chances but were unable to convert for the Wildcats, who got six saves from sophomore Marco Zendejas.
Munster, meanwhile, dominated the visiting Governors (2-11) and allowed scant few chances on defense.
"It's the postseason so we don't want to mess around," Coric said. "We want to handle everything and make sure everyone's in line."
Sophomore Peter Panos scored twice in the second half after the Mustangs led 3-0 on a trio of first-half headers. In two sectional games, Munster has outscored foes 12-1.
"We needed a good effort," Munster coac h Jim Prasopoulos said. "The games are only going to get harder, and we have to be ready for a very tough Clark team."