UNION TWP. | Washington Township boys soccer coach Joe Nugent had mixed emotions Wednesday.
The Senators defeated Gary Lighthouse 9-0 in the semifinals of the Class A Wheeler for the program's first postseason victory. Washington Township faces the host Bearcats on Saturday's 6 p.m. championship.
Lighthouse (1-4) is a first-year program, and it only used eight players on the field.
"This was a difficult game," Nugent said. "You don't want to turn anyone off. I've never been a believer in running the score up."
Lighthouse coach Samantha Bennett explained that she was told the squad had to have at least one substitute on the bench. Also, Lighthouse is a eighth to 12th-grade school. Under IHSAA rules, the eighth-graders were ruled ineligible for this contest.
"It was a brand new experience for them," said Bennett, whose team was 0-2 against IHSAA-sanctioned schools.
Washington Township sophomore Alexander Perez said his team wasn't looking past Lighthouse.
"We didn't know anything about them," Perez said. "We treated it as we were playing one of the best teams in the state. We wanted to play hard."
Perez scored at 35:19 of the first, and he added his second goal at 29:31.
"(It) felt great to be part of (history)," Perez said.
Joe Nugent and Austen Porzel also scored twice in the first, as the Senators (5-9) led 9-0 at the break.
Coach Nugent said he told his team to call off the dogs when it was 6-0 with 15 minutes gone in the contest. The team spent the second half practicing on passing skills.
"We got a group that has fought hard and they wanted a chance to score; it's hard to slow them down," coach Nugent said. "This did give us a chance to work on our passing. We were able to do a lot of that (Wednesday)."
Westville lost the first meeting 8-3, but Bearcats (10-6-2) faced a much tougher challenge in the semifinals.
Nate Handley gave the Blackhawks (2-12) a 1-0 lead on a rocket shot into the left corner of the net at 27:46 of the first half.
Joey DeSimone tied it at 1-1 at 41:46. His nifty through ball led to Branden Melvin's breakaway goal at 59:02 to give Wheeler the lead for good. Henry Nettels added a rebound goal at 68:40 to give his team some cushion.