by Beau Wicker
Logansport’s boys soccer team had sectional championship No. 16 in its grasp.
But Marion mounted a furious comeback, scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes which included an unbelievable goal as time expired to give the Giants a 3-2 win Saturday in the Class 2A Logansport Sectional final.
Marion’s Luke Oliver sent a ball into the wind from 40 yards that somehow ended up floating into the goal as time expired to give the Giants the win.
The Giants (14-3) won their eighth sectional title in a row while the Berries (3-10-1) still haven’t won one since the undefeated regular-season campaign in 2009.
The heartbroken Berries were left to wonder what went wrong.
They appeared to have the game in hand after grabbing a 2-0 lead. Pedro Hernandez scored in the 33rd minute on a rebound after the Marion goalkeeper mishandled a ball. Heath Vincent connected on a penalty kick in the 51st minute to give the Berries a 2-0 lead.
But the Berries had to play most of the game without standout starting goalkeeper Jesus Martin, who was inadvertently kicked in the head making a diving save in the 28th minute. Martin has aspirations to play Division I soccer so the loss was indeed a big blow.
“Everything we practiced on for two days to get ready for the game, we did it. The focus was there, the intensity was there,” LHS coach Mike Turner said. “We did a really nice job, but you don’t count for the keeper going down. It did effect us a little bit, but Daniel [Dominguez] was making good stops.”
Backup Dominguez made a number of nifty saves, including a diving stop on a header following a strong throw-in by the Giants in the 55th minute to temporarily keep them off the board.
“He made some nice saves. I told him outstanding job,” Turner said.
The Giants got on the board with 10:27 remaining on a header by Isaiah Smith that started on a free kick by Alex Rittenhouse after a foul call on the Berries.
Rittenhouse then scored on a corner with 7:37 remaining to tie the game. He was then given a red card for excessive celebration, leaving the Giants a player down for the remainder of the game.
The Berries had some chances down the stretch. Orlando Casimiro got the ball in the box with 1:10 remaining but couldn’t get a good foot on it and Marion goalie Derek Harvey was able to flip it over the net.
The Berries had a corner kick with 50 seconds left but the Giants were able to deflect the ball and get it back into their possession.
After a wild scramble in the Giants’ half, Oliver got the ball and made his miracle shot as time expired.
Turner said he thought Oliver got the shot off in time.
“It was so close. I was listening for the siren when it was going in and it was right there,” he said.
The goal was aided by the wind and Dominguez had a chance at stopping it.
“He should have. He was back-pedaling. We’ve worked on that, but not getting minutes in goal, you’re not used to that,” Turner said. “He was back-pedaling and he should have just stopped and jumped. He can jump and cover that top bar from anywhere. He was trying to back-pedal and fell backwards when it was going in. That’s the heat of the game.”
The Berries changed their setup after taking a 2-0 lead with about 29 minutes remaining.
“The difference was that we had decided as a team if we got up on them two goals we were going to go into a defensive formation, absorb. And that’s what we did,” Turner said. “Everybody agreed that’s what they wanted to do and I put the seniors in the back. We didn’t do as good of a job as we needed to. We’ve got to push the issue. That’s why I gave them that first goal. The second one I went back to the way we started the game and then we got our opportunities but we didn’t finish.”
Martin played just 28 minutes before suffering his head injury. He warmed up at halftime wearing a big bandage on his head but wasn’t allowed to return by his coach.
“They told me they thought he could but I wouldn’t let him come back into the game. I was ‘no, we’ve got this.’ Two-goal lead, we have it and then ...  minutes to go, you think we could manage that and we didn’t,” Turner said.
The Logan coach also thought a card should have been handed out when Martin was kicked in the head.
“Yeah, because the ball’s here and he kicked him in the head. I was disappointed because we lost our starting keeper and he wasn’t going to return,” he said.
Turner added that Martin will attend a camp at Western Michigan University later this year.
“He has an invitation to go up there after Thanksgiving. They look at prospective goalkeepers. I talked to their coach and he’s kind of excited to see him,” he said.
Martin is 5-foot-7 and Turner said he’s tall enough to be a D-I goalie.
“He’s so quick, he reads the game well. He can still jump anywhere and cover the post. The backpost balls are the high-percentage balls that even 6-foot keepers aren’t going to get. He covers the goal pretty well,” Turner said.
Logansport’s second goal of the game was set up when Ram Bo was fouled in the box by the goalkeeper, leading to Vincent’s PK. Turner thought the infraction should have drawn a red card instead of the yellow that was called.
“I think that should have been a red because he grabbed him and pulled him to the ground. A goalkeeper at any level, you do that it’s a red card, no matter if it’s in conference or the sectional championship, if a goalkeeper grabs a player and pulls him to the ground it’s a red card. It’s straight up red,” Turner lamented.
The Berries once again came up just short in sectional play after winning 15 titles in the program’s first 16 years.
But it wasn’t for a lack of effort or desire, Turner said.
“They wanted it,” he said.