Senior midfielder Kane Osterhage and junior forward Ben Huels closed outstanding seasons for the Waterloo Bulldogs on Saturday.
Osterhage and Huels each had a goal and an assist in the Class 2A state-championship game as the Bulldogs bagged their first state championship in team sports at Waterloo with a 4-3 victory over Peoria Notre Dame.
On Friday in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Mundelein Carmel in the semifinals, Huels had three goals and Osterahge had three assists.
Osterhage and Huels each finished with 31 goals and drew rave reviews from opposing coaches and soccer observers during the two-day state tourney.
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“We didn’t know much about Waterloo coming into the game,” Peoria Notre Dame coach Mike Bare said. “I watched the replay of the game (Friday) night from the hotel ... and I tried to contact some coaches to get some information, and everything I heard said, ‘You probably want to double-team 4 (Osterhage) and 8 (Huels).’
“We don’t traditionally do that. We step on the field usually and say, ‘You know what? You’ve got to worry about us.’ But after watching their replay (Friday), I felt like 4 was worthy of making sure we track him, because I felt like 4 was the creator; 4 made things happen and set up 8.”
The game plan was sound, but the execution fell a bit short.
“We liked the game plan coming in and we felt like it worked pretty well,” Bare said. “But again, if you’ve got special players, they’re going to find a way to still have an impact on the game.”
Osterhage, also a standout baseball player at Waterloo, hopes to play soccer in college. Benedictine University and McKendree University in Lebanon are two of his suitors, but Osterhage isn’t close to making a decision.
Huels, meanwhile, will spearhead the attack next season when the Bulldogs figure to be strong again. Key players like Griffin Lenhardt, Ryan Stites, Dawson Holden, Philip Most, Drew Marshall, Tyler Grob and Trevor Coplin also will return.
Huels will be a marked man throughout the season, and Most and Stites have offensive skills that could continue to be tapped.
Other main contributors who will graduate with Osterhage will be Ethan Lewis, Chase Rubemeyer, Cole Kaiping and Clay Metz. Rubemeyer and Kaiping represented half of the defense that was a big key in Waterloo’s drive to state.
Holden, the son of Waterloo coach Chad Holden, injured his right knee with about 14 minutes to play in the first half.
Holden collapsed to the turf and was in considerable pain as he was removed to the opposite side of the Bulldogs’ bench before being taken on a cart to rejoin his team.
Holden could hardly apply any pressure to his leg as he was initially assisted off the field, but he made a quick recovery and was back in his midfield spot in the second half as the Bulldogs, despite allowing a pair of goals, held on for their narrow win.
There will be a parade for the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. Sunday. The parade will take the players and coaching staff down Main Street and eventually back to the school, where there will be an informal celebration.
“It was the blond hair that did it,” Chad Holden said, referring to the dye jobs the players had before the tournament that transformed their appearance.
Holden will get the same treatment Monday.
“We have a late start Monday,” Holden said. “We’re going to do it right before they start the official school day. Tanya (Lewis, Ethan’s mom) is coming in. She didn’t have to work that day, so it worked out well.”
Tanya Lewis, a professional stylist, did most of the work on the players’ hair.
Waterloo’s state title followed those of Gibault in 2013 in Class 1A and Columbia in 2014, also in 1A. All three teams hail from Monroe County.
“This means Valmeyer next year. Monroe County, man,” Holden said with a laugh. “Personally, I think 2A is about as competitive as 3A. I’m not saying Class 2A is better, but I think we’re at least competitive enough to be just as good as 3A.”