By JIM METCALFE
KALIDA - The stats may have been one-sided between Kalida and New Knoxville in Tuesday's afternoon's Division III boys soccer sectional at Kalida Soccer Stadium.
Still, the Rangers stayed within striking distance before the deeper Wildcats wore them down 3-0.
The Wildcats had a pair of offerings against Ranger (5-11-2) keeper Dean Frankenberg (6 saves against 9 shots on-goal officially) - Ian Richey and Drvin Kortokrax - that the senior stopped.
However, the Maroon and White broke through at 24:31 of the first half. Off a scramble in front of the net, Kortokrax got control of the ball and put it barely past the keeper from eight yards in the center for a 1-0 edge.
The Rangers had an effort at 14:10 when Ryan Lageman let loose from 20 yards but the try was over the top.
Kalida had few other efforts the rest of the half - against a defensive-minded New Knoxville crew - but at 2:17, Adam Langhals got behind the defense but Frankenberg came out to stop the ball before a kick was made; and with 33 ticks left, when Richey got a solid look from 24 yards on the right post but missed wide.
"We got a little frustrated as a coaching staff and as players. We were controling the possession but New Knoxville was playing their last line a lot deeper that we anticipated," Kalida mentor Mark Czubik noted. "We wanted to be more aggressive and attacking in the final third but because of their defensive strategy, we seemed tentative and weren't as aggressive as we would have liked."
New Knoxville coach Tony Hunt fel pretty good about his team's performance.
"To only be down 1-0 against a fine Kalida team was a great effort on our parts," Hunt explained. "We knew we had to defend well because we weren't going to score a lot against them. Defense has been our focus all season; we work a lot on it during practice because we know that is how we can stay with teams and we executed well today."
Kalida continued to have its way in the second half but struggled to take advantage, even as they amassed 13 corner kicks for the match.
Brandon Verhoff had a 1-touch off a corner kick at 35:06 that was knocked away by a Ranger defender.
At 28:07, Luke Langhals had a good look from 16 yards but Frankenberg deflected it and finally got control.
The Rangers had their only real look at the goal at 27:10 as Alex Lehman fired one from near midfield that forced Brent Hovest to make a stop.
The Knoxville keeper denied Kortokrax from 28 yards at 18:30.
However, the deeper Wildcats finally got to the Rangers at 7:08. On a 25-yard direct kick from the left side, Richey went high side to the right and made it 2-0.
"I think we finally wore them down late. Once we got that second goal, we could breathe again," Czubik added. "To me, the key to our play was our defender, Logan Roebke, against their lone forward, Caleb Yeatts. He was the one we were concerned about because of his size but Logan took him off the ball a number of times. He played very well."
Richey got loose at 6:11 but the keeper came out and knocked away a 12-yarder.
Frankenberg got another stop at 2:51 on a 28-yarder by Kortokrax.
The host team tacked on the finale at 1:52. Off a corner kick from the right side, Kortokrax launched a perfect pass to the middle to Brandon Verhoff, whose 10-yard header found its target.
"We stayed with them for 73 minutes. You know when you play a PCL team that they will be big and physical and you have to battle," Hunt added. "We did that but they finally got to us. We aren't as deep as they are and they wore us down."
Kalida (13-2-3) advance to play Lima Central Catholic, a 2-1 victor (4-2 in penalty kicks) over Miller City in Tuesday's nightcap, at 3 p.m. Saturday for the District title.