The second-ranked Red Devils (22-0-1) will play No. 9 Warren Howland (21-0-1) in the D-II state championship at 1 p.m. Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus. Howland beat Lexington 3-2 in the other state semifinal.
Tipp and Columbus Academy both had a few chances to score early, but the match was scoreless at the half.
“We didn’t handle the pressure very well in the first half,” Downing said. “We were just kicking the ball and not playing to feet. In the second half, it was different. We stayed composed, played the ball to feet and moved the ball around. We sort of pushed them back a little bit.”
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With 28 minutes remaining in the second half, the Red Devils earned a corner kick. Tippecanoe senior Matt Hinkle crossed the ball into the box and found the head of Howland, who tapped it past the Braves goalkeeper to give the Red Devils the advantage.
“That’s been our plan for the whole season,” Howland said. “If you look out there, we’re six to seven inches taller than everyone we play. We know if we can get the ball into the air, we’re going to get a head on it.”
A few minutes later, Columbus Academy earned a free kick from about 25 yards out. The Braves’ Charlie Mueller smashed a shot on target, but Red Devils keeper Adam Trimbach leaped into the air and tipped the ball just over the crossbar.
“I thought it was his best game of the year,” Downing said, “especially in the first half. While we were struggling, he kept us steady and kept us in the game.”
The school district brought more than 100 students on a spirit bus, as well as their band.
“It’s amazing,” Howland said. “If you see the people that came out here, it’s an hour drive. It’s not a short drive. To see the support we got, we do it for them. Our city is great. It’s just a tight-knit community. We want to bring it back to the city.”
With the victory, the Red Devils set a new school record for wins in a season. Tippecanoe enters the state final having won 11 straight matches. To bring the trophy back to Tipp City, they’ll have to top another unbeaten squad.
“We know what we need to do,” Howland said. “It’s all in the heart and in the head. We’ve done the practice throughout the entire season. It’s all about doing our jobs now.”
Wellington 4, Botkins 0: Freddie Lin and Jordan Livits each scored two goals as the Jaguars advanced to their first state final in school history.
The Trojans (19-1-2) were making their first-ever appearance in the state soccer semifinal..
The Jaguars will play Bluffton, which beat South Range 2-1 in double overtime, in the state championship match at 7 p.m. Sunday.