By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
LONDON — Even though he could feel it, Adam Trimbach still needed convincing.
“I couldn’t believe that the ball was in my hands. I had to look up at the scoreboard, and I thought I can just go down right now and the game’s over,” Tippecanoe’s senior goalkeeper said.
One last save in the final 10 seconds to send the Red Devils to the state championship game.
After Jake Rowland headed in a cross by Matt Hinkle midway through the second half of Wednesday’s Division II state semifinal matchup against Columbus Academy at London High School, Trimbach stuffed the Vikings’ final desperation run and covered up the ball to kill off the closing seconds, sealing the Tippecanoe boys soccer team’s 1-0 victory and putting the Devils in their first ever state title game.
Tippecanoe (22-0-1) advances to faces Warren Howland, a 3-2 winner over Lexington in the other semifinal, at 1 p.m. Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.
It was the Devils’ fourth trip to the state semifinals — they’d previously been in 1989, 1990 and 1992 — but they hadn’t ever advanced to the state final. But these Devils, who also had been in the regional title game three of the last four years but could not break through to the state semis, finally kicked the door in.
“It felt like we were the Washington Generals for a long time, but that curse is finally over,” said Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing, who was on the Devils’ 1989 and 1990 semifinal teams. “It’s nice to see a lot of the guys here tonight from my grade and the class after me, the ‘92 class that was the last group to go — 27 years since we’ve been here? I’m proud of the guys.”
“It’s been crazy,” said Rowland, who also scored the game-winner during Tippecanoe’s shootout win in the regional title game against Wyoming. “We do it for each other. I mean, no one wants to win more than coach Downing. The last time we were this far was in 1992, so we keep him in mind always.”
And the fact that these Devils have already pulled off something special and have a chance to do even more isn’t lost on Tipp City itself — the visitors’ stands at London were overflowing with fans and supporters Wednesday night, with even more spectators standing and lining the fences around the field.
“Just knowing that our school only has one (team) state championship, in cross country, and that we have an opportunity to bring something back to this great community — I mean, look at how many people are here,” Rowland said. “You know they love us. That’s an hour drive from where we live, so for them to make it all the way out here, it’s great.”
And all of those fans got to witness a battle, too.
Columbus Academy (13-4-5) had just as many chances to score as Tippecanoe did in the game’s first 30 minutes, but Trimbach and the Vikings’ Luke Budzik kept things scoreless. In the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Devils put on heavy pressure, though, with Eli Hadden hitting a header just high, Andrew Baileys ripping a left-footed shot that Budzik made a diving save on and Evan Stonerock hitting a header that Budzik jumped up and tipped over the crossbar with one hand to keep the game scoreless at the break.
“We knew they were a good possession team and that (Sam Massick) and (Blake Chiovaro) were both dangerous players,” Downing said. “I felt like if we could keep those two in check and at least get one goal in the second half … I kept waiting for it and waiting for it, we had chances, and then we finally got it.”
And that goal came with 27:37 left in the game.
Matt Hinkle sent a corner kick into the box, but the Vikings cleared it out — only to have it go straight back to Hinkle, who settled it and crossed it right back in. This time, Rowland was able to head it and redirect it past everyone and into the corner of the goal to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
“Luckily, the ball got cleared back out to me, so I took a touch and played it back in,” Hinkle said. “The majority of the year, that’s how we got our goals. So I just played one back in and Jake, who has scored a lot of headers this year, put one in at the right time when we needed it. It was amazing.”
That one goal was all Trimbach and the defense needed.
Columbus Academy’s best chances to score all came in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but Trimbach came out to make a point-blank save on one breakaway attempt by Massick with 34:40 to play, and then he snared a shot by Charlie Mueller on a direct kick from 25 yards out two minutes later. All told, Trimbach unofficially made eight saves in the game.
“Adam was great, especially on balls in the air,” Downing said. “He was willing to come out, he cleared them when it had to be cleared, he made a huge difference. I’d say he was our player of the game.”
“We’ve got one more game, man,” Trimbach said. “I’m a senior, and I’ve never been this happy. I think that was the best game I’ve played in my entire four-year career. I just put it all on the line and did it for my boys.”
The Vikings made one final push in the final 30 seconds, but with under 10 seconds to go Trimbach made a save on a potential game-tying shot, and he covered it up to kick off a massive celebration on the Devils’ sideline.
“We’ve worked so hard for each other. This was a dream come true,” Hinkle said. “Even on Saturday, when we beat Wyoming and get through the elite eight … my sophomore year, we lost that game, and in the back of my head I knew I didn’t want to feel like that again. And now we’d never won this game before, either. I’m excited for Sunday.”
“We had a rough route to get here, too, going up against Alter and Wyoming,” Downing said. “And even the games in between, it’s a long season, you get tired and it’s hard to play at the top of your game every game. To get through our bracket, I’m proud of our guys. That was a big feat to accomplish.”
With one more feat still to go.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
©2019 Miami Valley Today, all rights reserved.