GOSHEN — Prior to Saturday's 3A regional semifinal against Penn, Chesterton center back Jack Eaton had three goals to his name this year.
That didn't matter when Trojans defender Jordan Carlson curled a free kick to the back post deep in overtime. The ball fell right to Eaton, and he finished it off for a game-winner to keep Chesterton's undefeated season alive in dramatic fashion.
“It was a good ball, floated in,” Eaton said. “I thought (Zack) Bowser was gonna get it, and he kind of ducked out of the way. It just found my foot.”
Eaton said Chesterton prides itself on set-piece execution and has eight to 10 plays to run. Trojans coach Lucas Sabedra said he wants the 6-foot-1 Eaton in the box on corners and free kicks due to his size, and Eaton's sudden offensive explosion couldn't have come at a better time.
“We've been asking him to score off corners this whole year, and finally this man scores two in one game when we need them most,” Sabedra said. “We noticed that they were a little bit smaller on height, so the biggest thing is we wanted him forward and just being a big body in there.”
Chesterton's relief showed as Eaton turned around, arms spread wide, and ran nearly to midfield toward the traveling Trojan supporters. Penn entered with a 7-8-2 record while Chesterton ranks No. 1 in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association poll, but the Kingsmen played the Trojans evenly for much of the match. Chesterton's attack didn't lead to much early, but the Trojans finally broke through thanks to Bowser's opener and Eaton's first goal, off a corner.
Penn didn't quit, however. David Ross' 60th-minute goal brought the Kingsmen back in contact, and Jeffrey Harper stunned Chesterton in the 78th minute, when fans could have been excused for thinking the game was over. Peter Smith's cross fell right to Harper, and he converted an easy, serendipitous goal that belied the difficulty of rallying against the state's top-ranked team. Eaton said the break between regulation and overtime helped Chesterton regroup after the pressure had mounted.
“At this stage, you just never know,” Sabedra said. “With that said, they're gonna rally, and they're gonna grind out games at this point in time, especially when they haven't lost in a while. … This was one of the better teams we've played all year.”