FORTVILLE — Aaron Britt earned a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship, the conference’s traveling bell trophy and a face full of chocolate cake Wednesday. What he and his Mt. Vernon boys’ soccer team would like to taste most of all is a sectional title, and they’ll begin that quest next week against the same Greenfield-Central club they defeated 3-1 in overtime Wednesday.
Britt, the Marauders’ fourth-year coach, slightly altered his lineup and strategy for the match, which was originally postponed by lightning Sept. 6 at the end of regulation with the score tied 1-1. The teams picked up Wednesday with overtime and Mouhamed Konate, who also scored for Mt. Vernon in regulation three weeks ago, got behind the G-C defense from 40 feet out and dribbled the rest of the way for a head-on goal with 49 seconds left in the first seven-minute overtime period. Josiah Noska scored again for the Marauders late in the second extra period against a Cougar’s defense that had shifted forward in a desperation attempt to even the match.
With the victory, which also came on MV’s Senior Night, the Marauders finished 6-1 in the HHC. They’ll share the conference title with New Palestine if the Dragons (9-5-1 overall, 5-1 HHC) defeat Pendleton Heights (5-8-1, 2-3 HHC) tonight. Mt. Vernon (9-6-2 overall) also received the HHC bell from the Cougars, who had previously grabbed it with a win over Shelbyville. The bell is not at stake in the postseason, and it will stay at Mt. Vernon until next year.
Claiming dual conference bragging rights put the Marauders in a celebratory mood Wednesday, and the MV veterans chased Britt from the playing field with pieces of their Senior Night cake. They eventually caught him near the sideline and shoved the chocolate and icing concoction in Britt’s face.
Britt said the cake tasted “alright,” although much of it landed in his hair, cheeks and neck.
When the Marauders first met the Cougars Sept. 6, Britt wasn’t in the mood for a party. His club fell behind 1-0 on a goal by the Cougars’ Joe Hudson as the visitors generally outhustled Mt. Vernon in the early going.
The Marauders were more prepared Wednesday, taking the fight to the G-C net almost immediately, with Konate finally breaking through with the only score the black-and-gold would need.
“Talking to my assistant before the game, we were going to make a very deliberate effort,” Britt said. “That’s all we spent time talking on today ... just to push, and push the issue. We changed the lineup a little bit to put more attacking players on the field.
“We threw everything at it, realizing that we were going to leave ourselves open, and I was okay with taking that risk.”
The Cougars (7-5, 4-2 HHC) managed no shots on goal in the first overtime period, and took three shots in the second overtime, with MV goalkeeper Corban Hartley forced to make two saves.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Cougars coach Jared Manning said. “As the coach, I’ll take blame for that. I just didn’t have them ready.”
It was an effort that left G-C without the conference bell and a chance for the regular season HHC title. A win Wednesday and another win against Rushville (3-10, 0-5 HHC) today would have given the Cougars at least a share of the HHC championship.
Instead, G-C will have to secure a second straight sectional title to end 2012 with any kind of hardware.
“That kind of stuff is important to a certain extent,” Manning said of the HHC title and bell. “We do focus on it, but obviously if we take care of business next week, what happened tonight really doesn’t matter.”
In the sectional semifinals at Shelbyville next Wednesday, the Cougars will face the Marauders, while the Dragons will take on the host Golden Bears (4-6-1, 2-2 HHC). The championship is next Saturday, Oct. 6.
The Marauders notched two goals on the Cougars in less than 14 minutes Wednesday. Britt doesn’t expect scoring in the sectional to come quite so easily.
“Greenfield’s a great team and this is surprising to me,” Britt said. “I know that we have some firepower, but I don’t think it will be anywhere close to this next week. Greenfield has quite a bit of firepower and a lot of guys that can get forward quickly, which they weren’t able to do tonight. But I think they just had kind of an off night.”
Notes: Britt said injured starters Cole Justus and Kyle Pruitt, who did not play Wednesday, will be ready for the sectional. ... CJ Coleman had an assist on Konate’s overtime score. ... The Cougars defeated Shelbyville and New Palestine, each by 2-1 scores, to win last year’s sectional. NP beat Mt. Vernon 1-0 in the semifinal.