NEW PALESTINE — He started in goal and was later summoned to the field. Then back to goal Jack Sifferlen went when Greenfield-Central needed its senior the most.
And he delivered in a big way — two ways, in fact.
Pulled from his keeper duties with the Cougars trailing Shelbyville 1-0 late in the second half, Sifferlen stormed onto the field Tuesday at the New Palestine Sectional like a man on a mission.
Taking a free kick from roughly 45 yards away on the left side of the field, Sifferlen placed a beautiful ball near the far right (back) post for a charging Luke Tuttle, who was then punched in the face by Shelbyville’s keeper, Will England. However, Tuttle, a senior, still managed to get enough head on the ball to send it to the back of the net, tying the game at 1-all with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Sifferlen, who was replaced in goal by junior Noah Hughes with 21 minutes to go in the game, later returned to his keeper duties after two seven-minute overtime periods for penalty kicks. He stopped two Golden Bear shots as Greenfield-Central connected on four of its own for a 2-1, come-from-behind win.
Tuttle, junior Braiden Sticka, junior Clay Kelley and freshman Zach Bell all scored on their penalty kicks to help the Cougars advance to the sectional final.
But the equalizer in the second half could not have been any more picture-perfect.
“Luke has been our main guy this year, from that far out I knew I wasn’t going to beat the goalie,” Sifferlen said. “I saw him run behind a defender, and I’m glad I played it to him.”
Added Tuttle: “Before, I had told (Sifferlen) to play it to the back post. When I went up, I hit it and got knocked in the head. I didn’t even see it go in.”
But it did. The roar from the crowd told him so.
Greenfield-Central has now won eight of its past nine contests, including a recent win over Fishers. It finished with eight shots on goal in the first half and six in the second on Tuesday in a physical battle which saw each team receive yellow cards.
First-year Cougar head coach Matt McConnell said despite a slow start in the first half, Greenfield-Central found rhythm near halftime and carried it over into the second half.
Sticka, Tuttle and Tyler and Brandon Murphy each had opportunities to score in the opening stanza but could not connect. Shelbyville junior Tyce Taylor also missed a shot in the first half with 16 minutes remaining. He was all alone in front of Sifferlen but blasted the shot over the top crossbar.
“Possession was 54 to 46,” McConnell said after the game. “It was right there all the time. It really kind of stayed that way. We weren’t really clicking until 15 minutes left in the second half.
“But those two guys (Sifferlen and Tuttle) are gamers. They hate to lose.”
Hughes made his presence felt in goal for the Cougars, as well, after suffering an injury earlier this season against Mt. Vernon.
“He came up with a huge saves, too,” McConnell added.
For Sifferlen, though, the transition from goal to the field wasn’t as easy as it appeared.
“It’s something I’ve been used to, not knowing where I’m going to play all the time,” he said. “But it is kind of a hard transition from trying to stop goals to trying to score them. And subbing in at goal (for Hughes) is one of the hardest things to do.”
The Cougars beat the Golden Bears 3-2 in overtime Sept. 19 with Tuttle, Sticka and T. Murphy all finding net. Tuttle leads Greenfield-Central with 13 goals and 10 assists this season.
Shelbyville’s Taylor, who led Shelby County with 16 goals this year, was held scoreless until the penalty kick portion of the game on Tuesday. Senior Adam Smith also made his penalty kick but an opening miss by sophomore Trae Hassebroek put Shelbyville in a hole from start.
And despite the win, a tough — and familiar — foe awaits the Cougars in the title match. Greenfield-Central will play either Mt. Vernon or New Palestine on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Cougars finished second at 5-2 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference this season behind the Marauders (7-0). It beat the Dragons, who also finished 5-2 overall.
“This is really just like a conference championship tournament,” McConnell said. “These four teams have been tight all season. We look forward to whoever (we play).”
Shelbyville 1, Greenfield-Central 2
Tuttle goal and PK, Sifferlen assist and seven saves, Kelley PK, Sticka PK, Bell PK.