The Northwestern High School boys soccer team nearly entered halftime unscathed.
But with 19 seconds remaining, Bellefontaine played a ball into the box that inadvertently found the arm of a Warriors defender. The official pointed to the spot and the Chieftains’ Marcus Walker converted the penalty kick a few moments later to give Bellefontaine a 1-0 lead it would never relinquish.
The Chieftains beat Northwestern 2-1 in the Division II Springfield bracket sectional final match on Monday night at Piqua High School’s Wertz Stadium. Bellefontaine will face Cincinnati Summit Country Day in a D-II district match at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bellbrook High School.
Ethan Miller scored the lone goal for the Warriors, who finished the season 13-2-1.
The penalty kick goal changed the game for Northwestern, coach Andrew Wildman said.
“I think mentally it takes you back and puts you on your heels a little bit,” he said. “It took us awhile to find our groove. We find one and put it in the back of the net, but from there, they just put the bricks on us.”
Bellefontaine was the only team the Warriors didn’t beat in Central Buckeye Conference play. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 27. Northwestern had won 10 straight games entering the match.
“We knew coming in it would be a battle,” Wildman said. “We thought it could go either way.”
The Chieftains struck first in the second half. Forward Daunte George tracked down a long pass and centered it to forward Derek Robb, who pushed it past the keeper to give Bellefontaine a 2-0 lead.
With about 30 minutes remaining, a foul called on Bellefontaine gave Northwestern’s Ethan Miller a chance to score on a free kick from about 25 yards out. He bent the ball over the Chieftains wall and found the top corner to pull the Warriors within one.
Miller doesn’t typically take free kicks, but he’d been working on them in practice, Wildman said.
“Recently in training, he’s been pounding the ball,” he said. “We let him step to it tonight and take a couple. I think the third one he had he bent it in on a beautiful ball.”
Northwestern will graduate 10 seniors from a squad that went 9-0-1 in the Central Buckeye Conference, winning its third straight Mad River Division title.
“I can’t be any prouder of this bunch,” Wildman said. “We came in with a different kind of philosophy and a different style of play. All the kids really embraced it. When we executed it on the pitch like we did against Urbana last week, they were just absolutely fantastic. We’re going to keep pushing that style in the program.”