By Tom Williams
For the second time in five seasons (and school history), the South Range High boys soccer team will be playing for a Division III district championship.
Sophomore goalkeeper Brant Rothbauer is one of the key reasons why. In Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Lake Center, Rothbauer was simply unbeatable, making several strong stops to preserve the shutout.
Perhaps his best came midway through the second half when Lake Center’s Caleb Schroll’s booming kick sent the ball toward the top corner of the net.
As the ball approached the goal, Rothbauer jumped sideways and used his arms to deflect the ball wide of the net.
“I’m not sure if it was a deflection,” Rothbauer said. “It looked like it was going high, but it bent right back down. I just dove and it came right to me.
“It felt really good to keep the sheet clean.”
Rothbauer made 12 saves and his brother Tyler, a defenseman, made one.
“He’s one of the best goalies who has ever come to this school,” Tyler said of his younger brother. “I know I can trust him and I know if I were to make a mistake, I hope I don’t, but I know he would be there to back us all up.
“He’s a great goalie to have on this team, a great asset.”
The older brother also had his sibling’s back. In the first eight minutes when the game was scoreless, Lake Center’s Justin Raber maneuvered near the goal line and appeared to have a wide-open net. As his low shot approached the line, Tyler swooped in and booted the ball away from the net.
Tyler said the stop on Schroll was his brother’s best.
“That shot could have let them get back into the game,” Tyler said. “[The save] was awesome.”
Brant said the brothers do well together most of the time.
“I like [having him in front,} Brant said. “We have our moments where we scream at each other, but it’s good.”
With 8:40 remaining in the first half, junior midfielder Nick Wiery put the Raiders ahead, 1-0, with a shot set up by Cole Frank.
“I was playing right side, so I went to take a corner kick from the left,” Wiery said. “As I was running back, I saw the ball come over my head.
“I touched it one time off my right foot and it deflected off the keeper’s [Chris McQuistion] legs. It was spinning and landed right in front of the goal and went in.”
Three minutes into the second half, Raiders sophomore midfielder Brooks Thomas stole the ball near the Lake Center goal and sent the ball high into the net for a two-goal advantage.
Wiery said knowing Brant Rothbauer was behind them was a boost.
“Having a great keeper is one of the main parts in the game of soccer,” Wiery said. “You have to trust your keeper, knowing he can make the save and kick it up to us.”
South Range head coach Alan Styer said this year’s squad “I feel is the most talented team we’ve ever had.
“We’re also young and small, so it was interesting to see how we would do,” Styer said. “I knew that we had the talent — whether we had the size and the strength to come up against bigger teams, that was the question.
“We weren’t sure how good we were,” Styer said.
The Raiders (10-4-4) will travel to Louisville to play St. Thomas Aquinas in the district final on Saturday. The Knights advanced by defeating Crestview, the team that beat South Range for the Inter Tri-County League title.