GREENFIELD — The New Palestine Dragons were running on fumes.
Playing a litany of matches prior to Tuesday night’s Sectional 12 quarterfinal round, including five in eight days, the Dragons struggled to find their legs, and East Central took advantage.
The Trojans (13-5) built a 1-0 lead late in the first half and hammered home two more goals in the match’s final 11:33 to defeat the Dragons 3-0.
Class 3A New Palestine finished its season with a 7-9-1 record. East Central moves on to the Sectional 12 semifinals tonight at 7 p.m. against Greenfield-Central, which defeated Mt. Vernon 2-0 in the other quarterfinal Tuesday.
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“Honestly, it just wasn’t our night. East Central played well. Give them credit, but I don’t think we really played our game,” New Palestine head coach Justin Sass said. “What people don’t see is our lineup is battered and bruised. We had to play four games in six days. Unless people have played soccer, you don’t know the amount that puts on your body. And when you do it the week before sectional, it’s hard and frustrating.”
Unable to control the midfield and possession consistently, the Dragons were outshot 8-1 in the first half and recorded one shot on goal while the Trojans registered seven.
The first East Central goal went to Nathan Weis off a throw-in by Evan Spangler in the match’s 30th minute. The score materialized off the Trojans seventh shot on goal in the match. They had 12 overall.
The Dragons entered the match without two key defenders in Carson Sams, a sophomore, and junior Austin Burks, who has been out all season with a broken foot. Sams’ injury occurred the week prior to sectional.
“We were just battling injuries left and right,” Sass said. “It’s frustrating, but we just couldn’t come out and play our game. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes that happens in soccer.”
East Central went up 2-0 with 11:33 left in the match as Kameron Siebert played a through ball to Colden Whitt, who found the back of the net.
Weis scored his second goal of the match on a breakaway with 3:20 remaining, slipping the ball past New Palestine goalkeeper, Adam Hunt.
Hunt racked up nine saves, despite the loss, and kept the goal clean as East Central peppered the net with 18 shots.
Before the sectional, New Palestine tied Center Grove 0-0 on Sept. 20, beat both Hoosier Heritage Conference foes Delta 3-0 (Sept. 23) and Pendleton Heights 2-0 (Sept. 28), while losing to Franklin Community 4-2 (Sept. 26) and Fishers 4-0 (Sept. 21).
East Central 3, New Palestine 0
Goals: Nathan Weis 2, Kameron Siebert (EC). Saves: Adam Hunt 9 (NP), Chase Sizemore 7 (EC).