HAPPY DAYS: Shawe’s David Grote (above, 10) celebrates with teammates (from left) Jack Heitz and Whit Grote after hitting his penalty kick as Southwestern’s Cory O’Neal reacts during Friday’s sectional championship game. Rebel keeper Stuart Bramer (below) unsuccessfully dives for the ball. Shawe won the game 3-2 for its second-straight sectional title. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
HAPPY DAYS: Shawe’s David Grote (above, 10) celebrates with teammates (from left) Jack Heitz and Whit Grote after hitting his penalty kick as Southwestern’s Cory O’Neal reacts during Friday’s sectional championship game. Rebel keeper Stuart Bramer (below) unsuccessfully dives for the ball. Shawe won the game 3-2 for its second-straight sectional title. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
RISING SUN - Shawe Memorial scored two goals in a span of just two minutes to take the lead then held on to beat Southwestern 3-2 in the Class A Sectional 58 Championship in boys soccer on Friday.

The Hilltoppers, heavy favorites coming in, trailed 1-0 five minutes into the game and 2-1 early in the second half before mounting a spirited rally.

Whit Grote scored the equalizer on a brilliant shot in the 49th minute and older cousin David Grote headed in the game-winner two minutes later.

The last score held up. Despite a frantic effort over the game's final 20 minutes, Southwestern could not even the score and Shawe celebrated its second sectional championship in as many years.

"(The season) absolutely would have been a failure if we had not won sectionals today," David Grote said. "If we would not have won we would have all been down in the dumps for two weeks."

Shawe came into the match sporting a 17-1 record on the season which included a pair of wins over Southwestern. But both of those victories were by only one goal and came right down to the wire.

The Rebels (11-6-1) showed that early on that they were not intimidated when sophomore Coleman Jackson got away from the Shawe defense and beat Hilltopper goalie Kyle Daugherty with a hard shot just five minutes into the game.

Shawe (18-1) showed no signs of being staggered and went right on the offensive. Five minutes after Jackson's goal, the Hilltoppers took three shots from nearly point-blank range - including an indirect kick by Whit Grote from inside the penalty box - but all were stopped by Rebel keeper Stuart Bramer.

Bramer stopped another shot, this one a backwards header by Joe Nchia in the 16th minute, to keep Southwestern on top.

The Hilltoppers finally got the opening they needed when David Grote was taken down in the box on a hard tackle by Austin Spray and was awarded a penalty kick in the 30th minute. Grote calmly sank the shot to send the two teams into the half tied at 1-1.

While the game was tied, the Hilltoppers were hardly pleased with the way the first 40 minutes played out. A long talk at halftime seemed to cure their ills.

"I talked to the guys at halftime and told them that they had forgotten the fundamentals of the game," Shawe coach Kevin Fry said. "Marking, staying with your man, spreading the field, communicating. The second half, we came out much better. In the first half we weren't that good. Southwestern was just better."

"(The talk) was mostly about defense. We talked about staying with your man and making sure that you're not too far away," David Grote said. "We weren't playing very good defense at that point and good defense creates offense. It all adds up to a good game."

Spray made up for his penalty by giving the Rebels the lead three minutes into the second half. The junior gathered in the loose ball, spun away from two defenders and fired a laser past Daugherty from 12 feet away.

But the lead was short-lived. Just two minutes later, Whit Grote took a pass from Jesse Ball, dribbled a few feet, then beat Bramer on the left to tie the game.

Two minutes later, David Grote picked up his second goal of the game - and 14th on the season - when he headed in a long pass to put the Hilltoppers ahead 3-2.

Less than 30 seconds after Grote's goal, Jack Heitz appeared to put Shawe ahead 4-2 when he hammered a shot that hit the right post and it trickled over the line before Bramer was able to clear it. But the lineman ruled that the ball never broke the plane.

"We could not win a 50-50 ball in the air. That was the key to the game. When we started winning those 50-50 balls, that's when the game changed," David Grote said. "We got about seven shots in a row and we really started controlling the middle."

As it turned out, Heitz's non-goal ended up not figuring into the outcome. Playing in a steady rain that turned heavy over the game's final 10 minutes, the Hilltoppers kept Southwestern out of the goal to preserve the victory.

"We've got a couple of guys on defense that are first-time players and we did the best we could. When you have inexperienced guys like that, good teams will find them," Southwestern coach Dave Bramer said. "But they really played well and I'm proud of them."

The game was nearly a carbon-copy of the two previous games played between the two teams this season. As time wore down, emotions started flaring and there were a few incidents, but no cards were handed out.

"It lived up to everything we thought it would be," Fry said. "It was hard-fought, it was physical and by in large, I think it was clean."

"I think (Southwestern) played their best game of the season to be honest," Grote said. "We played good and they played great. We just happened to come out with the win."

One of things that Fry was the happiest about was the way his team preserved in the second half. During a season in which they won their first 12 games, the Hilltoppers were never truly tested. The only other time Shawe trailed this season was in its loss to Seymour.

"I think they showed their character in the second half," Fry said. "I was really worried when we went down because it's only the second time we went down all season. And the first time against Seymour we got spanked 4-0. No matter what we do no, they have shown to me and themselves that they've got the courage and the will to come back."

Shawe now heads to the regional which will be played at Switzerland County next week. The Hilltoppers will face the winner between Lawrenceburg (9-7) and South Ripley (7-8-2) in the semifinals on Thursday. Those two teams will play in the sectional championship at Jac-Cen-Del tonight.

Salem (12-6) has already advanced the regional with a 1-0 win over Trinity Lutheran on Thursday and will play the winner of tonight's Providence-Christian Academy matchup in the other semifinal.

While Shawe prepares for the next round, Southwestern heads home. But after replacing several starters from a year ago and embarking on a rebuilding season, Bramer said that the Rebels should be proud of what they accomplished.

"You just wonder what the year's going to be like and it turned out great," Bramer said. "We won our last six in the regular season and one in the sectional and it says a lot about this team. They really came together. You could see the emotions spilling out here, but they really put it on the line out here. I'm really proud of them."

"All the yahoos to Southwestern; they played a hell of a game," Fry said. "I know those kids are upset and I don't blame them. It's heartbreaking for them. But they have nothing to be ashamed of. All of the kids and Dave did a great job. They had a great season."