SHERIDAN — There was a vocal celebration following the quarterfinal soccer match at the Sheridan Class 1A sectional Monday, probably a little louder than most first-round postseason wins.
It was jubilation 10 years in the making for one of the smallest schools in Indiana.
The Anderson Prep Academy Jets controlled the tempo of the game from the outset, attacking on offense and repelling most attempts to score from their opponents, and rolled to a 3-1 win over Tri-Central to advance to the sectional semifinal.
It was the first postseason team win in the school’s history. Established in 2009, APA’s only postseason victory prior to Monday was Michael Taylor’s individual cross country championship in 2017.
It was an important win for coach Nick Karr, not just for his program but for the school overall.
“As a coach, it means a lot because we’re trying to get better every year,” Karr said. “As a school, I teach there. I’ve coached there for years. My wife coaches there. We’re kind of like a family. For us to bring this back home to them and for the players to experience that, after constantly being beaten down ... as a coach, I’m just delighted.”
Despite controlling possession throughout the first half, it appeared missed early opportunities could cost the Jets a chance to secure a win.
Nine times in the first 18 minutes, APA (5-8-2) had shots on goal. Only once did Trojans keeper Alexander Porter need to get his hands on the ball for a save. The other shots sailed wide or high, including three shots by junior Larry Rodriguez.
But in the 19th minute, Rodriguez got loose on a throw-in from the sideline and pounded home what appeared to be the first score. However, the goal was waived off for an offside call, and the game remained scoreless.
That did not last long.
Four minutes later, Tri-Central (1-13-2) was called for a penalty in the box, giving the Jets a penalty kick chance — one senior Hugo Gomez did not miss, giving APA a 1-0 lead.
“I was just trying to relax and not be nervous,” Gomez said. “I was just going to try my best.”
After more near misses, the Jets doubled their advantage with 4:09 remaining in the first half as junior Derek Dailey found the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Carrying a two-goal advantage to intermission was big for APA’s confidence.
“That really helped the confidence and made us play harder,” Gomez said. “That’s when we knew we could do it.”
APA wasted little of the second-half clock in adding an insurance tally as Rodriguez, frustrated early by multiple misses and one goal waived off, scored for the 3-0 lead less than two minutes into the second stanza.
It was more than enough for the Jets’ defense, which kept the Trojans away from the goal for the most part. When Tri-Central did get close enough to take a shot, senior Mathew Dailey rose to the challenge. His only blemish was a Chandler Vanosdol goal in the 53rd minute.
“I was proud of the defense,” Karr said. “We were a little worried back there, but Carlos (Vazquez) is a good team captain and leader back there.”
As the clock wound down, the fans on hand began to celebrate, soon to be joined by the players when the clock hit triple zeroes.
“It means a lot, especially with my team,” Gomez said. “To bring this home, it’s an honor.”
The Jets will face cross-town rival Liberty Christian in the 7 p.m. semifinal Wednesday. It will be a rematch of a game APA lost on penalty kicks earlier this season.
“We’re excited for that,” Karr said. “One of my players’ stepdads is an assistant coach, so they know our players and the kids are all friends outside of school. That game’s competitive, but it’s also fun.”