GREENWOOD -- At the end of a season in which they won a school-record 15 games and won the program's first sectional, the Greencastle boys' soccer team wasn't going to go down without making some noise.
Before going out for the second half, GHS coach Dave Lilly told his squad, "One goal at a time. We get the next one and then we got a game."
The Cubs did get on the board first in the second. Greg Lilly scored off a direct kick from just outside the penalty area with 23:52 remaining in the game.
Unfortunately, the Trojans (14-4-1) soon answered, extending the lead to 4-1 on a Scott Woessner goal with 19:52 to go.
The game ended at 4-1, with the Trojans on to the regional final and the Tiger Cubs heading home for the winter.
Although he would like to have gone on, the loss was not too troubling to coach Lilly, as the Trojans were such a talented team.
"They are, by far, the best team we've faced, and they were the better team today," Lilly said. "We hoped that, like the sectional final, maybe we could weather that first 10 to 20 minutes and let things settle down and feel like we could play with them. The worst thing that happened to us was they got that early goal on the header."
That early goal came less than five minutes in, as Max Harper scored on a header off a Mike Martin feed.
It was actually the third shot on goal GHS goalkeeper Ryan Payne had faced in the young game, but Lilly said this one wasn't the keeper's fault
"We just didn't mark that guy. He went up clean and hit it down. There was nothing that Ryan could do about it," the coach said.
Center Grove kept its foot on the gas, controlling the ball and continuing to challenge Payne. Their second score came on a Ross Kirch penalty kick with 24:44 to go in the half. The call seemed a bit extreme in the situation, but it stood just the same.
"That (first goal) was followed up by the penalty kick. It seems like in this game you always get the follow-up call. The first foul was not called, but the retaliatory one on our side was. They end up with the penalty kick and we're down 2-0," Lilly said.
From there, the game settled down. The Trojans' scoring chances slowed and Greencastle was able to get some ball control. However, the scoring opportunities weren't there, as GHS got just one shot on goal in the half.
With under three minutes in the half, Center Grove added yet another goal, as Martin made a spectacular bicycle kick that got past Payne for a 3-0 lead at the half.
"This is the first time we gave up four goals all season. That says something for Center Grove, the competition they play and where they're at," Lilly said. "It's a team that could very well go on and not just win this regional, but go to semistate and be in the final four."
Looking at the second half, though, Lilly had to be impressed with his own squad. They played the talented and much quicker Trojans to a 1-1 tie over the final 40 minutes.
"I felt good that we finished on the one goal-scoring chance that Greg had. That energized us for a little bit."
Another big moment came when Payne stopped a penalty kick with 21:31 to go. The big stop was typical of the solid play Payne has given GHS in goal all year.
"Ryan Payne stopping that second penalty kick was huge. He's been awesome in the goal. He's been tough all year," Lilly said. "There have been so many games where he hasn't really been a factor because we controlled the ball so well there hasn't been a lot of pressure on him. But in the games there is pressure, he steps up and makes some big plays."
Facing pressure on Wednesday, Payne may have allowed a season-high four goals, but he also stopped 10 Trojan shots.
Both Lilly and his opposing coach liked the Cubs' effort as well. Pure and simple hustle helped the Tiger Cubs stand toe to toe with the Trojans for 80 minutes.
"I'm not disappointed at all with our effort. They guys worked hard," Lilly said. "(Center Grove) Coach Phil Orlando complimented the guys on their work rate. He said we had one of the best work rates that he's faced.
"The guys do work hard. Sometimes they work harder than they need to. We want to try to work smart at the same time we work smart," he added.
Wednesday's game was the final in the high school careers of seniors Greg Lilly, Cary Russell and Griffen Moore.
While Lilly's success as the team's offensive leader has been obvious all season, his classmates had to overcome injury in their senior seasons.
"Greg just had a stellar year this year," the proud coach and father said.
Russell overcame a broken collarbone late in the year, coming back very quickly to play in the sectional final and the regional game.
"It was amazing that Cary could come back that quickly. He was taking some calcium pills and he went to the doctor and got the release," Lilly said. He just wanted to play so bad. Last year as a transfer student, he had to play JV. He really could've played some varsity minutes last year. It was unfortunate that he got hurt and missed the games that he did."
Moore also had injury problems earlier in the season, but was able to come back to make a big contribution.
"Griffen was also hurt for the middle part of the season; he rolled an ankle. Since he's come back, he's been a real factor. I think since he's come back he's had five assists or so," Lilly commented.
The nice thing for the program is they only lose three. The 2009 team will have lots of experience coming back.
"At this point, the good news is we're only losing three, so we have a lot of returning guys coming up," Lilly said. "We have some freshmen who started tonight. We already have three freshmen who can start and replace those seniors. So if we get a little help next year and the guys improve and get a little bit older, hopefully we can make another run."
In the end, Wednesday was bittersweet, just like the end of any good season.
"It was a great season. I would like to have been back on Saturday, but we're back to the 'Wait 'til next year,'" the coach concluded.
At Center Grove
Boys' Soccer Regional
Greencastle 0 1 -- 1
Center Grove 3 1 -- 4
CG -- Harper (Martin ast.) 36:19
CG -- Kirch PK 24:44
CG -- Martin 2:57
GHS -- Lilly 23:52
CG -- Woessner (Wynn ast.) 19:52
Saves -- Payne 10 (GHS), Johnson 1 (CG)
Greencastle finishes the season 15-4.