By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – For the first time since the 2013 season, the West De Pere boys’ soccer team won a WIAA regional title.
The Phantoms scored a goal in each half on their way to a 2-0 victory over Green Bay Southwest on Saturday in a Division 2 regional final game at West De Pere High School.
No. 2-seeded West De Pere got goals from sophomore Landen Arnstad in the 12th minute and junior Braden Kelnhofer in the 47th minute to send the Phantoms to sectionals.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” first-year West De Pere coach Brian Kamler said. “Green Bay Southwest has one heck of a good team. Southwest has a good backline, but we were able to break through a few times. As for my team, they executed everything we worked on at practice during the week.”
Combined with the 3-0 shutout victory in the Phantoms’ regional opener against Ashwaubenon on Oct. 18, they haven’t allowed a goal yet in postseason play.
“We haven’t allowed many goals this year, and we’ve made it tough on other teams, but I’m not sure you could call us a defensive team,” Kamler said.
West De Pere (11-4-6) advanced to face No. 1-seeded Pulaski, who beat No. 4 Marshfield, 9-1.
The sectional semifinal game will be played on Oct. 27 at Pulaski.
The Red Raiders beat the Phantoms 5-0 on Sept. 1.
“Pulaski is a great team,” Kamler said. “Teams change a lot from the beginning of the season to the end – even if it’s only two months. There are lots of things we can correct from that loss. By them beating us, it gave them the No. 1 seed.”
On West De Pere’s first goal, Arnstad, who also played varsity as a freshman, took a ball in the air from a teammate and knocked it past Southwest goalie Ethan Bartelt.
“I went for the header, but I actually hit it with my chest,” Arnstad said. “It was an amazing feeling to see it go in and help my team win. I was young the last time we won a regional championship.”
No. 6-seeded Southwest (5-9), who upset No. 3 Shawano 2-1 in its regional opener, had a few good opportunities after the Arnstad goal, but Phantoms goalie Jonathon Romatowski stood tall in net.
Kelnhofer’s goal came at the 6:34 mark of the second half to end the scoring.
“We figured it would be a low-scoring game,” Southwest coach Jay Draves said. “I thought whichever team scored first would have a good chance to win. (Scoring first) gave West De Pere some extra energy to battle in the warm conditions. It made us work harder to try and get one back. You could see we got tired toward the end of the game.”
The game was played in 75-degree temperatures and sunny skies.
Draves said it took his squad — which he described as a good mix of veterans and underclassmen — most of the season to gel.
“That only happened in the last few weeks,” he said. “We battled some injuries and lost some players for various things. Even to get a victory (in the postseason) as a No. 6 seed was an accomplishment, so I’m glad we were competitive with a No. 2 seed.”
By Rich Palzewic