CRAWFORDSVILLE -- In spite of hanging tough with Southmont for 80 minutes, the North Putnam boys' soccer team saw its season come to an end Thursday, falling to the Mounties 2-1.
A change in the lineup was very conspicuous as the Cougars took the field. T.J. Wilhite, who had been the Cougar goalkeeper all season, was not in the net, but playing midfield. Freshman Madison McClellan was in goal for the Cougars.
NP coach Dave Moeller thought Wilhite's effort and athleticism was beneficial to his team in the field.
"I just wanted more work from our midfield," Moeller said. "T.J. works hard when he's out there, so I wanted two central midfielders who would work their butt off. I thought they gave us a better chance of winning the game."
The change worked well for the Cougars in the early going. The Mounties spent much of the first half on the attack. They were getting plenty of shots on the Cougars, but McClellan was making the stops. The freshman picked up seven of his 11 saves in the first 25 minutes of action.
"Madison did a really good job," Moeller said.
While the Cougars were not in control of the ball as much as the Mounties, they made some serious charges when they did.
Most of the night, it was forward Shin Ryu getting behind the Mounty defense to make a rush at the goal. Unfortunately, Ryu was too fast for his own good at times, collecting several offsides calls in the early going.
"In the first half, there were times when we waited a little too long to play that ball," Moeller said.
The coach also did not agree with all of the offsides calls.
At the 13:14 mark in the first half, the methodical Mounty offense paid off when Jordan Williams found the back of the Cougar net. Southmont led 1-0.
Undaunted, the Cougars came right back. Ryu made one of his patented charges, getting through the defense and even making the goalie fall down, before his shot trickled across the goal line. The score was tied at one with 10:24 to go in the half.
"Shin's a very explosive player. We were looking to play him as much as possible," Moeller said. "With his speed, he could beat their defense, so we were looking to play him when we had the opportunities. He worked hard and had a lot of good opportunities to score."
The score remained 1-1 at the break.
In the second, it was more of the same. The Cougars were usually on the defensive end, but the defenders, led by senior Kyle Smith, did a much better job of clearing the ball. McClellan faced only five shots on goal in the second half.
The tense moments for the Cougars came on a pair of penalties. With 36:10 to play, Southmont's Tyler Witherspoon got a direct kick against McClellan. The goalie made the stop to maintain the tie.
For North's part, the offensive recipe was the same -- try to let Ryu outrun the defense. Although he got out in front several more times, the Mounty defense would catch him and break up the play.
The Mounties were awarded their second direct kick with 6:45 to play when Wilhite was called for a hand ball. It was a bad bit of irony for a player who spent the whole season as a goalie.
"He has been a goalie all season. It's kind of a natural reaction to stick his hand up," Moeller said.
This time, McClellan could not make the stop. Chris Rash put the ball past him and put his team up 2-1.
From there, the Cougars could not mount the offense to tie the game again. The Southmont defense held tough to close out the game 2-1.
"It's a tough way to end the season," Moeller said. "I thought we played great tonight. We played 80 minutes of good soccer. It's just unfortunate the way it ended."
The Cougars closed the season 1-13-2. In spite of the record, Moeller still found positives in his team's effort at the end of the year.
"It was a rough season. It was a struggle," Moeller said. "The last few games, we've really stepped it up and played well."
Crawfordsville boys' soccer sectional
Southmont 1 1 -- 2
North Putnam 1 0 -- 1
Southmont -- Williams goal 13:14
North Putnam -- Ryu goal 10:24
Southmont -- Rash goal 6:45
Goals -- Williams, Rash (S), Ryu (NP)
Saves -- Truncone 3 (S), McClellan 11 (S)
North Putnam closes the season 1-13-2.