GOSHEN — Down 3-2 late to Northridge in the Class 3A Goshen Regional final after blowing a 2-0 lead, the Chesterton boys soccer team could have doubted. It could have folded. The pressure could have overwhelmed.
Instead, the Trojans rose up. Two minutes after senior Jack Eaton's 74th-minute equalizer, Zack Bowser shut out the jeers from a large Raiders contingent and buried a penalty to cap a 4-3 win.
“I've never been back-and-forth in a game like that,” Chesterton coach Lucas Sabedra said. “That was insane.”
Chesterton (19-0-2) will play Carroll (17-2-2) in a semistate showdown Oct. 20.
Northridge (19-2-1) had taken the lead with a 64th-minute goal from sophomore Cameron Chappell, and Chesterton sent everyone forward in an all-out attack to tie the game. Chesterton absorbed a sledgehammer blow when Northridge junior goalkeeper Cameron Graber saved sophomore Nick Biel's penalty right after the Raiders' goal — and instead of hanging their heads, the Trojans kept pushing.
The top-ranked team in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Class 3A poll showed it's never out of a game. Eaton had scored three goals all season entering Saturday but added his third of the day to draw Chesterton even, ripping through defenders to head in junior Seth Conway's free kick.
“I had my doubts — I did. I really did. But Seth played a great ball in, and I just found it,” Eaton said. “We didn't give up, and we stayed together. That's what will win you big games, if you just stay together.”
Bowser said he wanted to take the late penalty after two Raiders sandwiched him. He stood over the penalty spot, sent the keeper left and drilled a low shot to the bottom-right corner.
Pandemonium ensued. Bowser's teammates mobbed their sophomore forward, who leapt into the air in celebration as the Trojans on the bench mobbed each other.
“(Zack) was getting clobbered the entire game, and when he got clobbered in the box, he deserved to take it," Sabedra said. "I know that he has an iron mind when it comes to taking those. I haven't seen him mess up, and when he does, he redeems himself.”
Bowser started with two assists to Conway to put the Trojans up 2-0, but fifth-ranked Northridge got a goal back shortly after when Chappell drew contact in midair for a penalty. Jonathan Mora, a senior, converted, and the Raiders eventually equalized when Mora broke down the left side and found classmate Micah Cross in the middle of the box for an easy finish.
Chesterton had faced this situation before, during a 2-2 tie against Morton on Sept. 17 that featured two Trojans goals in the final 13 minutes. This might have been a bigger stage, but the result was even better.
“We knew we had it in us,” Bowser said. “We knew we were the better team, and we knew we were gonna get another goal.”
More season remains, of course. But if Chesterton ends it with a state title, this night in Goshen may be what the Trojans remember most.
“We grinded it out,” Eaton said. “I couldn't be more proud of my team.”