EDWARDSVILLE — O'Fallon controlled the tempo but Edwardsville dominated the scoreboard Tuesday night.
Junior Landon Paul notched his sixth goal in three postseason games and sophomore Max Kieffer and senior Brent Heinlein also scored as the Tigers defeated O'Fallon 3-0 in the semifinals of the Class 3A Joliet West Sectional.
The game was scheduled to be played at Granite City High School, but it was moved to the artificial surface at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville because of rain.
"Unfortunately, we gave up that weak goal five minutes in," Panthers coach Jason Turkington. "It was a great finish, but it was a weak goal. We let the ball bounce and our back whiffed on it. The guy (Paul) was on the doorstep and he finishes."
O'Fallon, which lost to the Tigers 3-1 early in the season, finished 13-9. Edwardsville (17-3-2) advances into the title game and will play Minooka at 5 p.m. Friday at Joliet West. Minooka beat Moline 2-1 in the other semifinal Tuesday.
Paul was positioned in the middle of the field when he accepted a cross from the left side by sophomore Tom Giacobbe. Sophomore defender Noah Engel couldn't clear, and the ball settled at Paul's feet. Paul arched a shot over senior keeper Steve Green.
"What a tear he has been on," Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid said of Paul. "This one here, he just relaxes, drops on the ball and tucks it in. We'll take it."
Paul had six goals in the regular season; he now has 12.
"I saw Green coming out, so I just decided to shoot it. Luckily, it went in," Paul said. "That changed the tempo of the game, basically.
"(But) O'Fallon did a really good job pressuring us. It was a tough game. We just had to come out and get the second goal in the second half."
Paul downplayed his postseason hot streak.
"It's just hard work from everybody," he said. "Everybody's just working really hard. I'm glad a lot of people are scoring goals."
O'Fallon had three rapid-fire opportunities in the 27th minute, but couldn't convert. Senior goalie Brendan Heaton of Edwardsville made a save on a free kick, and another ball was cleared off the line by a Tigers defender.
"It was crazy," Heaton said. "Even before the game, that's what we knew we didn't want to happen. We didn't want to give up restarts and we didn't want to give up throw-ins in our back third because we knew it probably was going to end up in the box."
In the 65th minute, O'Fallon junior Darien McClain's long shot from the right side sailed inches above the crossbar.
The Panthers finally had to push up, and when they did, Edwardsville scored two goals in a span of 1 minute, 8 seconds.
"I think they got kind of lucky we didn't get at least one in the first half," Turkington said. "The second half, we pushed up at the end and they got two (more). Anybody who was here and understands, it wasn't a 3-0 game. That's what it was on the scoreboard, but they weren't three goals better than us tonight."
Kieffer scored from Paul at 72:37, ripping a drive from 25 yards out inside the left post. Giacobbe, working the endline, found Heinlein open for the goal that made it 3-0 at 73:29.
Heiderscheid agreed with Turkington's assessment of the game.
"It was very much closer than 3-0," Heiderscheid said. "At 1-0, I would just rather ice the game at that point and keep it 1-0, keep a shutout and live to see another day.
"O'Fallon, in a lot of respects, was a little bit quicker to the ball than us (and) their work rate was a bit more than us. It wasn't because our kids weren't trying. O'Fallon was just a step faster, quicker. It wasn't that way when we played them earlier."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.