Highland junior forward Evan Herman scored with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the game to propel the soccer Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory over Jerseyville Tuesday night in the semifinal of the Class 2A Jacksonville Regional.
“What a great effort by Jerseyville, they gave it their all but we were able to fight through, stick together and get a total team effort win,” said Highland coach Josh Oswald, whose team improved to 14-4-3. “It was a great effort by the fellas.”
With its third win over the Panthers (14-8-1) this season, Highland advances to Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game, where the Bulldogs be seeking their first regional championship in four years after winning four in five years (2008-10 and 2012).
But the Bulldogs, the fourth seed in their sub-sectional, will have their work cut out for them against the host Jacksonville Crimsons, the No. 2 seed.
Jacksonville ran its winning streak to 10 games with a 9-0 mauling of Civic Memorial in the other semifinal. Included in the Crimsons’ impressive winning streak are victories over Quincy Notre Dame, Chatham Glenwood, East Moline and Champaign Centennial. The Crimsons also have one-goal wins this season over Rochester and Marquette Catholic.
The regional champ will advance to next week’s Waterloo Sectional.
“Up next for the regional championship is state ranked #7 Highland vs #8 Jacksonville, at Jacksonville High School Saturday at 6 p.m, and any support would be outstanding as they will have a big crowd. It should be a good one,” Oswald said.
Jerseyville’s Drake Blackwell tied the game at 1-1 in the 51st minute on a free kick that seemed to spark the Panthers as they had sustained pressure most of the second half, including ringing two blasts off the crossbar.
But it was not enough as Highland senior goalkeeper Luke Jones turned away nine Jerseyville shots on goal in the game and Herman capitalized late for the game-winning tally.
Herman jumped on a loose ball that deflected off a Jersey defender and parlayed it into the game-winning goal with 6:33 to play to raise his team-leading total to 14 markers. Senior midfielder Brendan Schrage was credited with his fourth assist of the season.
Highland lit up the scoreboard first in the 20th minute when Schrage had the good fortune to receive an errant clearing pass by Jerseyville’s defense and carried the ball in all alone on Panther goalie Cody Gibson and buried it.
Jacksonville, who led CM 7-0 at halftime, received a hat trick from from senior Steven Albers, two goals apiece from seniors Nash Oldenettel and Jacob Bates, as well as a single goal each from senior Tyler Degroot and junior Ethan Karr.
HHS gets assist from Triad, wins conference crown
Five days earlier, Highland took care of business on its own end, and then got a big assist from an unexpected source, arch rival Triad, and won the Mississippi Valley Conference crown over the front-running Waterloo, the defending conference and Class 2A state champions.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs traveled to Mascoutah and nipped the Indians 2-1, while Triad edged out host Waterloo 3-2.
With the win, Highland finished the season with a 8-1-1 conference ledger, while Waterloo slipped to 7-1-2 after the upset loss to Triad.
It is the first conference title for the HHS Bulldogs since 2009.
“All their hard work has paid off,” Highland coach Josh Oswald said. “(We’ll) celebrate for a minute, and then (it is) time to get ready for the postseason, because our work isn’t complete yet.”
Highland drew first blood about halfway through the first half. Schrage had his back to the opposing goal and laid off a nice 5-yard negative ball that junior Jake Ramsey drilled into the back of the net to open the scoring. It was Ramsey’s second marker of the season and Schrage’s third helper.
About 10 minutes later, Mascoutah responded as Christian Rowe buried the equalizer off an assist from Charlie Shortsleeves.
About 15 minutes after halftime, Lucas Ammann fed Ollie Pfeiffer, who finished for the game-winning tally. It was Pfeiffer’s second goal and Ammann’s sixth assist.
In addition, Jones converted four saves.