For 65 minutes Crawfordsville had Tri-West right where they wanted them.
A late first half goal put the Athenians ahead 1-0 and allowed them control much of the second half.
But much like Crawfordsville, Tri-West’s entire season had built up to the chance of winning a sectional title, and the Bruins never accepted defeat.
Justus Mendenhall bent a shot into the back of the net from just outside the top left corner of the 18’ box in the 65th minute to tie it at 1-1, while moments later Nicholas Merrion’s hustle down the field and cross to his left squeezed just inside the left post with just minutes to play to lift Tri-West over Crawfordsville 2-1 to win the Class 2A Sectional title at Crawfordsville.
“They’re a great program and very well coached,” Crawfordsville coach Marcus Hale said. “It’s just tough. We knew it was going to be a battle for all 80 minutes today and that’s exactly what we got.”
Freshman Ryotaro Nishina’s goal in the 38th minute put the Athenians ahead 1-0 and allowed them to control the middle part of the match.
“We know we needed to do that at certain points,” Hale added. “We wanted to do that as much as we possibly could, because we knew if we kept the ball away from the other team, then the fewer opportunities they have. And for the most part we did a good job of executing the game plan.”
The Tri-West win comes after a 3-2 overtime setback to the Athenians in the regular season, which ultimately led to Crawfordsville’s first outright Sagamore Conference championship.
Overall, against the sectional field and Sagamore Conference – Crawfordsville posted a 9-1-1 record and Saturday was just Crawfordsville’s second loss of the season to a team not in Class 3A. A season full of success that has been three years in the making.
“It’s something that’s really been building up for this senior group for three years,” Hale first said of the physical play Crawfordsville matched its opponents all season. “As sophomores they were getting out-muscled by juniors and seniors.”
It’s a senior class of 10 — Landon Timmons, Joseph Sanchez, Alex Caballero, Esteban Moreno, Landon Hurt, Thristan Callejas, Marshall Horton, Emmett Bowman, Edwin Gil Herrera, and Dirk Oshel.
“Couldn’t ask for anything more,” Hale said. “They’re in the top three senior classes that I’ve had in terms of graduating. Obviously they’ve accomplished a lot. And worked very hard to do that and played through a lot of bumps and bruises in prior years. This was their year and it’s just a shame that this time of year, it really ends abruptly.”
Crawfordsville’s season closes at 13-4-1. Tri-West improves to 13-4-1 and will host Brebeuf on Thursday in the opening round of the IHSAA Regional.