ALTON — As he has done so many times this season, Donovan Gagen provided the offensive firepower Friday night for the Althoff boys' soccer team.
Gagen, a sophomore, scored his team-leading 28th goal of the season with 15 minutes remaining in the second half, lifting the Crusaders to a 1-0 victory over Alton Marquette in the title game of the Class 1A Marquette Regional.
Althoff (13-4-3) will play Harrisburg, winner of the Central Regional, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals of the Columbia Sectional.
"We collected the ball at midfield and Josh Davinroy pushed it out to Donovan, who was just outside the box," said first-year Althoff coach Joe Burchett. "He's pretty much a true goal scorer. He has a knack for wanting to score like there's no tomorrow.
"Donovan and Nick Harper both present a challenge for defenses. Nick had a ton of chances and deserved a goal, but he couldn't find a way to get one in."
The game was a back-and-forth affair, as was Althoff's 3-2 win over Marquette on Sept. 7.
"We didn't have a lot of great opportunities in the first half, but they made a couple good saves on us," Burchett said. "You have to mark up on them or you'll get yourself in trouble.
"I felt like we were a little nervous to begin with. It took us about six minutes to settle down."
Crusaders keeper Kody Turner made 10 saves while posting his fourth shutout of the season.
"Our center backs, Jacob Haas and Josh Davinroy, did a fantastic job," Burchett said. "They're really hard to get through.
Marquette finishes at 11-11. Althoff will have less familiar opponent in Harrisburg, which advanced with a 4-2 win over Carlyle on Friday.
"I don't know much about them, so I'll have to do my homework and see what I can find out from my fellow coaches," Burchett said. "But I like the way we're playing now and that's what matters most."