Southwestern’s Brandon Smith (4) dribbles past Switzerland County’s Michael Stanton (4) during the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. (Photo by Stephanie Hellmann)
Southwestern’s Brandon Smith (4) dribbles past Switzerland County’s Michael Stanton (4) during the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. (Photo by Stephanie Hellmann)
OSGOOD — One night after two thrilling quarterfinal matches, Southwestern and Switzerland County squared off to decide who would earn a spot in the Class A Boys Soccer Sectional Championship on Wednesday with the Rebels claiming the 3-1 win.

Both teams fought hard in the opening minutes of the contest with each getting some decent looks at goal, but the goalies for each team consistently turned away each shot.

However, it all changed in the 24th minute as the Pacers were called for a trip in the box which set up a penalty kick for the Rebels. It was no problem for junior Kaden Zellers, who calmly stepped to the spot and put it past goalkeeper Aiden Furnish for a 1-0 lead.

Southwestern wasn’t done as Zellers collected a pass while streaking on the right side of the field and easily scored again to put the Rebels ahead 2-0 in the 34th minute.

"Zellers is calm and collected when taking these PKs as he is a perfect 5-for-5 on the season. This really energized and brought more confidence to our team for the remainder of the game," Southwestern coach Seth Shields said. "Zellers played an outstanding game with his ability to breakthrough the Switzerland County defense on multiple occasions using his speed and ball handling skills. He has really stepped up his role this season as the team needed his experience and talent with limited personnel available at times."

The second half was a different story with Switzerland County dominating possession and keeping the ball on Southwestern’s end of the field but a very compact Rebel defense continued to deny the Pacers any serious threat to score.

The Rebels picked up a big insurance goal in the 61st minute when junior Brandon Smith caught the Pacer defense napping and sprinted down the field and fired the ball into the net to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead.

Switzerland County didn’t go down quietly, getting a goal from Ben Hicks in the 65th minute to close the gap to 3-1. However, the remaining minutes saw no serious chance by either team to score which allowed Southwestern to grab the win and earn the final spot in the championship match.

"We knew that we had to start off strong because of what Switzerland County is capable of as they have beaten us and tied us earlier in the season," Shields said. "We played another great game controlling the ball and the tempo as we did in the previous sectional game. Our passes and execution on offense have been coming together as we have been working hard in practice. Our defense, as it has all season, played stellar fending off the attack of Switzerland County allowing us to maintain a lead through most of the game."

Southwestern collected a total of 11 shots in the game, four of which were on goal. Goalie Brady McLain stopped nine Pacer shots to record the win.

The Rebels are advancing to their second straight sectional championship where they will square off against Class A No. 5 Jac-Cen-Del tonight at 7 p.m. The Eagles had an incredible run a year ago, making it all the way to semistate before falling to Indianapolis Lutheran.

Southwestern will be looking to play spoiler on any plans the Eagles may have for a deep run this year. In their two matchups during the regular season, the Rebels played to a 2-2 draw with JCD in the first match, while the Eagles won the second match 3-0.