BY GREG FLINT
WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. —
The Covington high school soccer team won its first sectional title in that sport in school history when the Trojans defeated the West Vigo Vikings 2-1 in extra time.
The school started playing soccer in 1992 under coach Mark Wilson, so it has taken 20 years for the team to get their hands on sectional hardware.
During much of that span, Covington was placed in sectionals where they played schools with eight to 10 times their enrollment – which meant that their seasons had ended in disappointment until now.
For much of this contest, it looked as if no one was going to win as both teams had chances but saves by the opposing keepers kept the slate clean.
The deadlock ended midway through the second half when Covington failed to clear a ball from in front of their goal and West Vigo tapped it in to lead 1-0.
The Trojans responded by upping their pressure, but the Vikings’ keeper is one of the better goalies in the area and he made save after save, including one where Covington had five players take a poke at the ball to no avail.
It took seven more minutes, but the Trojans finally got a goal from opening game hero Justin Long — who scored on a long kick off a pass from James Foley that soared over the head of the keeper and into the back of the net.
“I had an opportunity and just took it,” Long said of his shot. “I wanted it so bad. I just can’t believe it went in, but it was a relief because it tied the game.”
The game stayed knotted as regulation ended, meaning that the teams would have to play two seven-minute halves. If the game were still tied, it would go to penalty kicks – an outcome that no one ever wants to see.
The first half of extra time saw both teams move the ball up and down the field, but to little effect. The Trojans dodged a bullet when a foul was called on them just inches outside the box.
Had it been inside, it would have been a penalty kick — the same thing that defeated Covington in the title game last year.
Instead, the game moved into the second extra half and with 2:30 left, David Messick scored to put Covington up 2-1.
“I just saw it come to me and I kicked it and it went in,” said the senior of his game-winner.
The final two-plus minutes saw West Vigo repeatedly force the action, but Covington kept kicking the ball into the Viking end to use up time.
When the whistle blew to end the game, the Trojans swarmed the field in celebration.
“We’re like a family and we’ve got heart,” said senior Damon Hegg after the contest. “We stick together and think we can overcome anything and we did.”
Covington coach Ryan Sowers had played for the Trojans a decade ago and his team lost a sectional on penalty kicks. Asked if this win erased the effects of that loss, he replied, “Right now it does.”
Sowers said his team did not play its best soccer, but they “had enough heart and drive to get the win.”
He closed by saying, “This win is for all the Covington soccer players who’ve played for us in the past. This is for all of us, then and now.”
The Trojans are 9-4-1 and will face Washington on Thursday in regional action in Greencastle, Ind.
Greg Flint is a freelance writer for the Commercial-News. You can contact him at email@example.com.