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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 15, 2016 7:09 pm

West Noble boys win 1st soccer regional title

MARK SCHUTTE | For The Journal Gazette

As he and his West Noble teammates posed for a team photo – a shiny “Regional Champions” plate in hand – Uriel Macias finally cracked under the pressure and began to cry.

Just a few minutes before, Macias had scored the game-winning goal with 43 seconds left to play to give West Noble a 2-1 victory over Northrop for the Class 2A Carroll Regional boys soccer championship.

The Chargers (21-1) won their 19th straight game, but more significantly earned the first regional title in school history and set off a raucous celebration for the Chargers and seemingly the whole town of Ligonier that was in attendance.

So yeah, this was a moment worth a few tears.

“It’s emotional, you know,’’ Macias said in the middle of a throng of fans listening in. “Scoring the last-minute goal for my team, for my family, for the fans, it’s amazing. It’s just the love for the game, fighting til the end, last second. As you can see, we fought to the end and wanted it more.

“I’m proud, I’m proud. We all come from a small town to these big schools; we showed them what we’ve got. It’s a big honor for our town, putting them on the map. This is how we do it. We might be a small town, but we have a lot of heart.”

Macias, now with 51 goals on the season, has been the heart of a Charger team that has demolished nearly every team in their path, outscoring opponents 133-23.

But the consecutive 2-1 wins over Homestead and Northrop in the regional this week came against their toughest competition.

“It was intense,” Macias said. “It came down to who put the ball in the net, and we were the ones to put it in first. We finished it.”

West Noble, which will face Chesterton (14-3-2) in the semistate next Saturday at either South Bend St. Joseph’s or Warsaw, went up 1-0 just more than a minute into the game on a header by Cruz Belmares.

The Bruins (15-3-3) tied it 1-1 when senior Miguel Esquivel scored on a rebound in in the 27th minute of the first half. From there, an aggressive game became more so as scoring chances for either side were rare.

The look Macias eventually got in the final minute was one of the few times he had touched the ball all night as he faced constant pressure, most of the time from Northrop senior Will Allison.

Macias finally found an opening when he got the ball on the left wing, then weaved his way through three Bruin defenders before firing a shot into the corner past Northrop keeper Nick Craghead.

“They were on my back, they were tight,” Macias said. “They didn’t let me touch the ball for most of the game, but I let loose on that one. I took the chance and I finished it.”

For the Bruins, also searching for their first regional title, it was the third time this season they had lost or tied a game by giving up a goal in the last minute.

“It’s just definitely another kick in the stomach,” Northrop coach Billy Foreman said. “But the boys have nothing to be ashamed of. It was a heck of a season. I think these boys gave the effort they did because they just don’t want to let it go. A ton of passion, a great group and you just hate to see them go.”

The Chargers also were not ready to say goodbye to their nine seniors.

“We’ve been looking for this for a long time,” coach Ampelio Pizana said. “I was thinking it would never come. But my patience stayed on. I give credit to both of the teams because they played well.

“Their team is good and we respect them. We’ve got to give credit to these guys. My boys, they’ve been working for it for a long time, and finally we got it.”