The Highland High boys soccer team went 1-0-2 in its past three games against top-tier competition, but the bad news is that the Bulldogs most likely lost Brent Rapien to a season-ending concussion.
First on Tuesday of last week, Highland blanked visiting Jerseyville 2-0 on Senior Night at the HHS Stadium.
Just 75 seconds into the match, junior forward Evan Herman used his head to score a beautiful goal off a nice feed from senior Jack Landmann to account for what would be the game-winning tally.
Junior midfielder Jake Ramsey added an insurance goal in the 19th minute. And, due to the stellar team possession and defense, senior goalkeeper Luke Jones only had to make one save to record his seventh shutout of the season.
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Next, on Thursday, Highland traveled to Waterloo and earned a 3-3 tie.
Waterloo struck first, but after Rapien, a senior forward, was knocked out on a collision on a corner kick. After Rapien was taken from the field on a stretcher, Highland rallied for two goals in about an eight -minute span — one each from Herman and senior forward Lucas Ammann — to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
After the half, Waterloo got the next pair of tallies to jump out on top 3-2 before Ammann took a feed from fellow senior Ollie Pfeiffer and buried it for the equalizer with about three minutes left to salvage the tie.
Herman and junior Andrew Roach each picked up one assist for Highland and Jones made nine saves.
Waterloo (15-2-3 overall, 7-0-2 MVC) will repeat as Mississippi Valley Conference champions if it can beat Triad again on Thursday. In order for HHS to become MVC champs, the Bulldogs (12-4-2, 7-1-1) will have to win at Mascoutah on Thursday, and they will need help from Triad.
Finally, on Monday, the Bulldogs traveled to O’Fallon and came away with a 1-1 tie after both teams put in its goal before halftime.
Herman scored for Highland to increase his team-topping total to 13 and Jones amassed 12 saves between the pipes.
The Bulldogs begin the postseason as the sectional’s fourth seed in the Jacksonville Regional, where they will take on Jerseyville at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. With a win, Highland would most likely face No. 2 Jacksonville in the regional final at 6 p.m. on Oct. 22.
On Sunday, Highland received some nice accolades, as coach Josh Oswald was named the sectional’s Coach of the Year, while players Herman and junior Drake Gehrs were both chosen to the all-sectional first team, and Rapien was named an all-sectional honorable mention.
“I was fortunate enough to be nominated by and voted by the other coaches in the sectional as Coach of the Year,” Oswald said. “I’m incredibly honored, as so many teams are having great seasons and could of just as easily won the award, including the likes of Edwardsville, Alton, Columbia and Waterloo, to name a few. Just to be thrown in the same group with these coaches and teams is special. While I’m extremely grateful, this is not an individual award by any means.”
Oswald also wanted to make sure to give credit to his coaching staff of Brian Lammers, Jacob Stieb and Scott Cloin, who he feels are one of the better coaching staffs in the area.
“Those three have had just as big of part in this season as I have, and we wouldn’t be sitting where we are without them, and I can’t begin to thank those three individuals enough,” Oswald said.
And then, of course, the players in the program have been instrumental to all of the success.
“This is a special group of 18 (varsity) players we have this year, and they have a bond like no other,” Oswald said. “They are great group of kids that are respectful on and off the field and busted their behinds to go from 7-16 last season to currently 12-4-2 this season. I couldn’t be any more proud of them and ultimately the credit goes to them. They have gained the respect from max prep sports to be ranked No. 7 in the state rankings.”
Herman missed receiving all-state recognition by one vote. He finished ranked sixth overall and the top five make all state. However, Herman was joined by Gehrs on the all-sectional first team while Rapien was voted as an all-sectional honorable mention and Brett Korte narrowly missed joining Rapien as an honorable mention.
“Congrats to those players for their recognition,” Oswald said. “I am looking forward to what the postseason has to offer as this team really is a complete team and play for each other and are successful because of all the pieces. It takes all 39 (players at all levels and coaches) involved on a daily basis.”