Degener goal lifts Gibault past Althoff in sectional title game

For the News-DemocratOctober 26, 2013 

— The postseason ride continues for the Gibault boys soccer team.

A second-half goal by senior Wes Degener lifted the Hawks to a 2-1 win over Althoff Friday night in the championship game of the Class 1A Columbia Sectional.

Gibault (16-4-4) will play in the Collinsville Super-Sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday against either Quincy Notre Dame or Litchfield. Those teams will meet at 3 p.m. Saturday in the finals of the Raymond Lincolnwood Sectional.

The trip to the elite eight is the first for Gibault since 2009, when it finished second at state.

"We got the sectional monkey off our back, but we're not finished yet," Hawks coach Matt Reeb said. "The boys are hungry for a state trip. We've already played Quincy Notre Dame and we have a chance to play them again, so we might know our opponent pretty well."

Althoff finished the season at 14-5-3 under first-year coach Joe Burchett.

"I thought we played them much better than the first time," Burchett said. "We were aggressive in trying to get that tying goal in the last 20 minutes, but sometimes things don't go your way."

Althoff nearly struck first with 35:09 remaining in the first half, as Donovan Gagen's shot from 25 yards out bounced off the crossbar.

But it was Gibault that took the lead with 30:33 to play, as a header by Zach Rueter got past Althoff keeper Kody Turner into the lower left corner of the net. The assist went to Frank Mantia.

Althoff tied the score at 18:11, as Gagen, on the left side, beat Gibault goalie Austin Gregson from 25 yards out. It was his team-leading 31st goal of the season.

"He's a good player and that was a nice shot. He tucked it in on the far post," Reeb said. "Fortunately, that's all we let in."

With 12:28 to play, Gagen had a penalty kick when he was pulled down inside the box. But Gregson got a hand on the shot, which went wide right.

Gibault had another good chance with seven minutes left in the half. After a scramble in front of the net, Tommy Francescon's shot from 15 yards out sailed over the crossbar.

Degener scored the game winner with 27:21 remaining in the second half, as he got past Althoff defender Jacob Haas and beat Turner from point-blank range.

"I give credit to my wise assistant coach, my dad (Tim)," Reeb said. "He said I should switch Tyler (Enright) and Wes Degener. Wes was a little bit gassed in the middle and it gave him a break up top, plus he's a phenomenal athlete."

It was the seventh goal for Degener, who also has five assists.

"Frank Mantia can pass it wherever he wants and I think Mitch (Meyer) laid it off to him," Degener said. "I just took off and Frank put it right on the money."

Degener almost scored again off a corner kick from Mantia with 16:15 to play, but Turner made the save near the left goalpost.

Gibault got a scare with 12:20 remaining when the ball got loose on the left side after Gregson slid out near the edge of the box to block a potential Althoff shot. But the Crusaders couldn't get another shot off.

"They probably had the better possession the whole game, but we both had our chances," Degener said. "Our defense was rock solid and played well at the end."

Althoff continued to apply pressure in the final two minutes, but Gibault's defense was able to protect the one-goal lead.

"The kids coming back are going to be excited knowing that (a sectional title) can be had," Burchett said. "Unfortunately for my seniors, this is the end for them and it's emotional. I told them I'm not disappointed at all. They gave it everything they had."

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