Townsend's late strike lifts Evansville past rival McFarland
MADISON--Peyton Townsend waited patiently for his opportunity.
It came late, and the senior didn't let it slip away.
Townsend's stunning 86th minute goal lifted Evansville to a 1-0 win over rival McFarland in a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal Thursday at Madison's Goodman Sports Complex.
The Blue Devils will return to Madison on Saturday to face Mount Horeb with a trip to state on the line. Evansville has never advanced to state, while Mount Horeb has qualified six times since 2010, including each of the past three years.
“For us to come out with this win it's big for our fans, it's big for our kids,” Evansville coach Kendall Buttchen said after the Blue Devils snapped an eight-game winless streak against McFarland dating back to 2013. “It's big for the Evansville community and for us to do it at such a great facility and on such a great night, it's something these kids will remember.”
The Spartans, who beat the Blue Devils 2-1 on Oct. 12 to win the Rock Valley Conference championship, enjoyed the majority of possession and the goal-scoring chances Thursday, out-shooting Evansville 29-8 overall.
But Evansville hung around—led by the blanketing effort of keeper Alex Wille and the rest of the team's defenders—and waited for a counterattack.
It came, fittingly, off another excellent defensive stop when freshman Jackson Stencel sent a booming clearance down the field. Townsend located the bouncing ball, held off a McFarland defender, and slipped a shot to the right of keeper Justin Quist.
“Jackson just played one hell of a ball to me, and it just went where I needed it to,” Townsend said.
Townsend and Wille, two of 11 seniors on Evansville's varsity roster, both had performances to remember. Townsend was injured on a scramble for a loose ball late in the first half, but he re-entered the match in the second half.
Wille made nine saves—several of the game-saving variety—to preserve the clean sheet.
“I just knew I couldn't let anything in. I had to do it for my team,” Wille said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. We've been preparing all week for this game, and we knew going in we were going to give them our best shot.”
Evansville last played in a sectional final in 2012, losing 1-0 to Mount Horeb. Townsend was a freshman on the 2014 team that lost a sectional semifinal to Mount Horeb 7-6 in penalty kicks.
“We only had one freshman on varsity my freshman year, and we went to sectionals and lost,” Townsend said. “Going back my senior year, it feels pretty good.”
Neither side scored in an evenly matched first half, though McFarland held a hefty 15-3 shot advantage. Evansville center back Benjamin Ross broke up a tap-in chance for McFarland's Ryan Traynor in the 11th minute. About a minute later, Devils captain Kevin Garcia had a point-blank volley stopped by Quist.
Both sides picked up the pace as the clock ticked down in the second half. Spartan junior Andy Mendez-Maya hit the crossbar with a shot in the 78th minute, and Wille made a comfortable save on a McFarland free kick from 26 yards in the 83rd.
Garcia was denied by a six-man wall from 19 yards away in the 85th, but Stencel put an end to the Spartans counter before setting up Townsend for the game-winner.
EVANSVILLE 1, MCFARLAND 0
Evansville 0 1—1
McFarland 0 0—0
E—Peyton Townsend (Jackson Stencel), 85:32
Statistics: Shots—M 29, E 8. Shots on goal—M 9, E 4. Corner kicks—M 8, E 2. Offsides—M 1, E 0. Fouls—M 8, E 6.
Last updated: 11:26 pm Thursday, October 26, 2017