FORT BRANCH — For the first 19 games this season, junior Blaine Fuhs has been the catalyst for the Washington Catholic offense, and that didn't change Thursday night.
Fuhs scored three goals to lead Washington Catholic (14-5-1) to a 4-1 victory over Vincennes Rivet (11-9-1) in the Class A boys soccer regional semi-final. The victory gave the Cardinals their first appearance in the regional championship in school history.
In a rematch of conference opponents, Fuhs scored 12 minutes into play to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead as he weaved past two defenders to the right of the Patriot goal and fired a shot past Rivet goaltender Daniel Welage. 15 minutes later, sophomore Zack Taylor nearly put the Cardinals up 2-0, but he couldn't convert a point blank shot attempt.
In the 29th minute, senior Brody Wilson put Washington Catholic up 2-0 on a penalty shot. The Cardinal defense helped take the two-goal advantage into halftime. After halftime, Washington Catholic continued to attack and Fuhs' second goal of the night five minutes into play put the advantage at 3-0. Fuhs got his hat trick with his third goal of the night 13 minutes later to give Washington Catholic a commanding 4-0 lead.
"If he (Fuhs) has enough space he's pretty deadly," said Washington Catholic Wayne Neace. "We try to find Blaine (Fuhs) in different spaces, and we move him throughout the field from side to side. That was the goal to find him in space — he did well tonight."
The four goal lead matched the Cardinals output in the regular season meeting with the Patriots — a 4-3 WC win. Rivet junior John Anderson put the Patriots on the scoreboard when he first a shot past Washington Catholic goaltender in the 66th minute of play. The Cardinals defense tightened in the final 13 minutes to take the 4-1 victory.
"Part of the success we have had here lately is because we have changed the way our defense plays," Neace said. "We play more of a double diamond and the kids have really responded to that as opposed to the flat back 4 that we had been playing. James Brown played an amazing game back there — nothing really got past him."
Washington Catholic won its first sectional championship in 2011, but lost in the first regional game to Evansville Mater Dei — also at Gibson Southern. Washington Catholic will take on the winner of Forest Park-Evansville Mater Dei in Saturday's regional championship at 1 p.m. The Cardinals were upset by Forest Park (11-3-3) in the sectional championship last season, and earlier this season the Cardinals played the Rangers to a 2-2 tie.
"Forest Park is a good team," Neace said. "We hit a shot late in the game to tie it — it's going to be a battle. They are a good, big team.