KOKOMO – This season's Carroll boys soccer squad had a shot at being "that team" – the Chargers team that won the program's ninth regional title. The team that brought home a semi-state win. The team that became the first in school history to play in the state championship game.
The shot ended Saturday night in Kokomo as the Chargers (18-3-1) fell 2-1 to Noblesville in the regional finals.
But after the match coach Rollie Clements emphasized that this year's group was a team in all the ways that really matter.
"This was a team," Clements said, emphasizing the final word as he gestured to his players, some of them still embracing their teammates and others reluctantly taking off their cleats and shin guards for the final time as Chargers. "You can see – they care about each other over here. They put their heart into it."
The Chargers began the day with a 3-0 win over Homestead in the semifinals, then came out firing on all cylinders against Noblesville (16-2-2). The game was intensely physical from start to finish: A Noblesville player was issued a yellow card less than 90 seconds into the match, and tackles and free kicks were plentiful.
Both teams played with an obvious urgency, but it was the Millers who struck first, on a tap in by senior midfielder Harrison Christman with 30:16 left in the first half. Carroll goalkeeper Logan Gonzalez dove back into the net in a last-ditch attempt to stop the shot, but it was too late.
Just four minutes later, Carroll senior midfielder Peyton Fosnough was walloped in the midsection right in front of the goal, earning the Chargers a penalty kick. Senior forward Chase Hartzog sank the shot past goalkeeper Adam Carter to tie the game.
In the final moments of the first half, senior midfielder Elvis Nwosu entered the game and took a thunderous shot, but it careened off the left post, bringing fans of both teams to their feet.
"That's the way we try to play, we like to play fast," Clements said. "The guys were able to get it done, we just didn't get the goal. They played hard and hit the post and a couple little things like that. Soccer's a funny game."
Christman put the Millers ahead for a second time with 21:56 to go in the second half, once again on a short-range tap into the corner of the net.
"(Christman), we knew he was a problem," Clements said. "We knew this was going to be a tough match. They're good, they've come out of a tough sectional, they have a good record and all that. They're just a quality team."
The Chargers kept pushing for an equalizer as the match wore on. They were awarded a free kick from the corner of the 15-yard box with just over four minutes to go, but the Millers cleared it. Carroll couldn't capitalize on a corner kick with 2:20 to go, and couldn't get the ball back into the Millers' half of the field in the frantic final minute. A last-ditch punt with 5 seconds remaining sailed into the waiting arms of Noblesville's Carter as Chargers players across the field sank to the pitch.
"Heart, heart," Clements said when asked what his team showed in the loss. "We came out of the first game a little nicked up, so we were doing some things we don't normally do. But I'm just so proud of the kids. They never quit."