Goals came fast and furious for the Gibault Hawks on Thursday.
In a battle of Class 1A Catholic schools, the Hawks scored four times in the first 30 minutes of the game and had little difficulty posting a 5-2 victory over Althoff at Belle-Clair Soccer Park.
Juniors Dalton Scace and Ben Mueth scored two goals apiece, and freshman Cameron Kincheloe also scored as the Hawks won their fourth straight to improve to 9-7. Four of Gibault’s goals came inside the box as they exploited the Crusaders’ soft defense.
“We did a good job of putting away our opportunities,” said Scace, whose 14 goals lead Gibault. “We got the ball wide and then just put it away when we got it into the middle. We played well. Our chemistry is really starting to click.”
Scace also hit the left post and crossbar and had another shot saved masterfully by Crusaders senior keeper Stephen Toenjes.
Toenjes, however, was on an island most of the game, being forced to try to stop a Hawks offense that consistently created one-on-one chances inside the box.
Scace’s goal in the fifth minute, Mueth’s in the ninth minute and Kincheloe’s in the 16th minute came from 10 or fewer yards away. Scace’s second goal, in the 30th minute, was a 25-yard blast from the right wing that sailed inside the near post to make it 4-0.
“We’re still inexperienced. We played four freshmen and four sophomores almost the whole game. That left one junior and a couple of seniors. It haunted us,” said Althoff coach Joe Burchett, whose 6-7-2 squad also has been hampered by injuries. “Then I looked over at the bench and I had three seniors hurt and one senior on a yellow card.
“The whole second half was the young guys, although I thought they did better.”
On the bench with injuries were seniors Evan Toennies, Will Dall and Tyler Wade. Senior Jacob Petry went to the sidelines after the yellow card. Another senior, high-scoring Donovan Gagen, is out for the season. The absence of the older players has created time on the field for freshmen Mitchell Kidd, Justin Kaemmerer, Nathan Petry and Stone Galloway.
Althoff cut its deficit to 4-1 in the 35th minute on senior Justin Robinson’s goal in front off, a play that began with a corner kick by sophomore Jimmy Monken.
Monken scored in the 47th minute to get Althoff within 4-2. But Gibault sealed the outcome when Mueth scored in the 58th minute, tapping a shot inside the right post from close range as Toennies came off his line to attempt a save.
“That was the killer,” Burchett said.
The ‘usual suspects’
Gibault coach Matt Reeb is accustomed to seeing Scace and Mueth break down defenses. Mueth is right behind Scace with 12 goals.
“The usual suspects,” Reeb said. “They’ve been playing well together. They’re the guys we kind of lean on when we need a goal. We’ve had other guys that have stepped up big-time, but those two always seem to find the back of the net when we need it.”
“We played well and knocked the ball around well. We found good opportunities and made the most of them. We came out ready to play from the start and were hungry for the game.”
Gibault lost four in a row to Belleville West, Mater Dei, Edwardsville and Columbia to fall to 5-7, but has regrouped and is optimistic about its chances to reach the state tournament.
“We lost a few games in the middle of the season,” Scace said. “But we made a formation change from a 4-2-3-1, and now we have two up top with me and Ben. So I think our offense is definitely kicking in now and it’s working out well.
“I feel like we’re set to make a solid run.”
“We don’t know who we’re afraid of at the 1A level,” said Reeb, whose team could face a challenge from Althoff or Mater Dei. “We’re the No. 1 seed in our regional and we know, potentially, our sectional matchups if we get out of the regional. We could be dangerous. We’re peaking at the right time. But we can’t get complacent at this point.”
Robinson, Monken shine
Robinson in the middle of the field was a rock of stability for Althoff. Few defenders prefer challenging the 200-pounder, whose combination of power and finesse it tough to match.
“For a big man, he’s athletic, he’s skilled, he’s good with the ball,” Burchett said. “He’s a fabulous kid. The hardest part is not being able to support him and Jimmy with a little bit better caliber. Until we get healthy, our choices are freshmen, and we do our best.”
Monken, meanwhile, has a motor that never stops and exploits defenders with his speed and shiftiness.
“We’re 15 games in and he’s been like that for 15 games. It’s amazing to me,” Burchett said. “He’s high-energy and he’s a workhorse. The kids love him to death.”