FORT BRANCH — All good things come to an end.
The Washington Catholic (14-6-1) boys soccer team saw its deepest run in the state tournament end with a 2-1 loss Saturday afternoon to Forest Park (13-3-3) in the Class A regional championship at Gibson Southern.
After struggling to score for much of the afternoon, the Cardinals finally had a glimmer of light. It came as no surprise the flash of offense came from junior Blaine Fuhs. Fuhs' breakaway goal with just 10:46 to play in regulation tied the score at one. The goal was Fuhs' 45th of the year, which tied the record for most goals in a season at Washington Catholic, a record Colton Reed set in 2012.
"In the second half our (offensive) chances were better," said Washington Catholic coach Wayne Neace. "We moved Zach Taylor up top as a forward, and on the goal Blaine (Fuhs) was supposed to run as a decoy. Zach (Taylor) you know is a well rounded player. They just didn't know about him. Blaine (Fuhs) got the goal and we seemed to have more of an offensive threat at that time."
After tying the game, the Cardinals appeared to have momentum, but the Rangers defense was able to hold them off. With six minutes remaining, Forest Park senior Dakota Begle was tripped up inside the 18' box and the Rangers were awarded a penalty kick. Begle got his shot past Washington Catholic goaltender Jon Mitchell to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Both teams came out playing strong defense on a chilly, cloudy autumn afternoon. The Forest Park defense seemed to surround Fuhs with a wall of defenders to stymie the Cardinal offense. Forest Park junior Ben Englert gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute when he gained possession off a deflection to the left of Mitchell and his shot squeaked past Mitchell's fingers in the top left corner of the goal.
"It was a good shot on their part, and they placed it in exactly the right spot," Neace said.
With the season over with the deepest state tournament run in school history, Neace said he was proud of the way his team battled all year and then on Saturday afternoon for 80 minutes. The Cardinals will say goodbye to seniors Thomas Bradley, Josh Fiscus, Dylan Walker and Brody Wilson.
"I was happy with the way the boys played today," Neace said. "It's been a blessing with Thomas (Bradley) and Dylan Walker coming out for their first year, Brody (Wilson) has played for me since he was in sixth grade and Josh (Fiscus) has been with us for two years now. We're going to do our winter training with our weights and we'll hit it hard. We have a big junior class coming back next year. We'll be OK."