Evansville High boys soccer two wins from state

·3 min read

Oct. 27—EVANSVILLE — Don't look now, but something special is brewing at Evansville High School.

The boys soccer team is two victories away from the program's first WIAA state tournament berth.

Top-seeded Evansville (16-1-4) will play host to fourth-seeded Madison Edgewood (12-5-2) in a Division 3 sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Expectations were high coming into the season for the Blue Devils, and coach Kendall Buttchen said his team has responded in a big way.

"I think it's safe to say that we've exceeded our expectations," Buttchen said. "And the biggest reason for that is that so many guys have stepped up at one time or another and contributed to our success.

"We're very unselfish offensively, and our defense—along with the great play of goalkeeper Max Gribble—has limited our opponents to less than one goal per game."

Evansville won the Rock Valley Conference title with a 4-0-2 record. The Blue Devils were unbeaten on the season until a 1-0 loss to McFarland in the conference tournament earlier this month.

A 1-0 victory over Edgerton in a regional final last Saturday gave Evansville its first sectional berth since 2017.

Despite a stellar 16-1-4 record, the Blue Devils entered the postseason unranked.

"I'm totally OK with that," Buttchen said of the snub. "I think we're a much more dangerous team flying under the radar.

Drew Jarstad is the catalyst for the Blue Devils. The senior center-midfielder has 59 points on the season with 22 goals and 15 assists. His 59 total points rank him in the top 25 in the state.

"Drew's had a monster year for us," Buttchen said. "He's been a great leader and one of many guys for us that has really stepped up.

"He kind of played in the shadow of Jackson Stencel the last couple of years, but was the beneficiary of that in the sense that he got some opportunities when other teams keyed on Jackson."

Stencel is now playing for the University of Wisconsin.

Senior Jaxon Miller, junior Wesley LeRoy and junior Noah Schwengels have combined for 29 goals and 11 assists to complement Jarstad.

"That's what makes us so dangerous," Buttchen said. "You can't key on just one or two guys because somebody else will step up.

"And we don't need to score a lot because our defense has been so good, as has Max in goal."

The defense is led by senior John Fahey, junior Tyler Beles and senior Mason Miller.

In 21 games, Beloit Memorial is the only team to score more than one goal against the Blue Devils' stubborn defense. That nonconference game ended in a 3-3 tie.

Gribble, a senior, has a allowed only 15 goals on the season and has a save percentage of .913.

Buttchen knows Edgewood will be a formidable foe on Thursday. The Crusaders have won four straight and have allowed only two goals in that span.

"It's going to be a fun matchup," Buttchen said. "Edgewood is very technical and very disciplined.

"But I also think we match up well with them. They're not going to out-physical us or push us around. And it's always nice to be playing at home."

Elkhorn seeks return trip

The Elkhorn boys soccer team is looking to make its third consecutive state tournament trip.

The second-seeded Elks play host to third-seeded Baraboo at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Elkhorn is 15-1-1 on the season and won the Southern Lakes Conference. The Elks have won 12 straight after a 3-1 nonconference loss to New Berlin Eisenhower in September and have recorded four consecutive shutouts.

If third-ranked Elkhorn wins Thursday, it will likely play second-ranked and unbeaten Oregon in a sectional final on Saturday at Sauk Prairie High School.

Junior Ray Beilman and sophomore Owen Backus have been the offensive stars for the Elks. The two have combined for 35 goals and 18 assists.

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