Collinsville’s hunger showed Thursday.
The Kahoks, needing a victory over Alton to secure their second consecutive Southwestern Conference boys soccer championship, scored four second-half goals to defeat the Redbirds 4-0.
Seniors Sabas Avalos, Ryan Osterhout and Zach Stenger along with sophomore Logan Whitehead scored for the Kahoks (9-7-2 overall, 5-1 SWC), who also got two assists from senior Brendan Peterson.
“I know a lot of people downplay it, but I think it’s every team’s goal to win the conference title,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “Our conference, I say it every year, is one of the toughest in the state, in my opinion. So to come out and say you can play with some of the best teams in the state really means a lot.
“It doesn’t mean we’re a great team, but it means we’ve got the momentum going and we’re playing well right now. I just hope we can keep it going.”
Collinsville finished with 15 points in the conference standings, edging Edwardsville for the league title. The Tigers (13-1-5 overall, 4-0-2 SWC) finished second with 14 points. Each victory is worth three points, with one point being credited for a tie.
O’Fallon (11-5-3, 4-2) finished third in the conference with 12 points. Alton (14-5-2, 3-2-1) placed fourth with 10 points, while Granite City (4-9-6, 1-3-2) was fifth with five points and Belleville West (5-12-2, 1-4-1) was sixth with four points.
“We had this set as a highlight for our season and we were striving for it,” Kahoks senior defender Clay Hartman said. “It’s been a roller-coaster throughout the season. We’ve had our highs and lows. We had this marked on our calendar. We’re going to celebrate tonight, but we’re going to get back to it tomorrow and be ready for next Tuesday.”
That’s when fourth-seeded Collinsville and fifth-seeded Alton will play a rematch in the semifinals of the Class 3A Granite City sectional.
Collinsville applied tons of pressure in the first half, outshooting Alton 11-3. But the Kahoks had nothing to show for their efforts as both teams went to their locker rooms at the break.
The floodgates opened, however, at 42 minutes, 14 seconds, when Avalos hit a shot from about 25 yards out that squirted through the hands of Redbirds senior keeper Braden Flanigan, who appeared to be screened on the play.
Osterhout scored to make it 2-0 at 56:39, converting off a throw-in from the left side by Peterson. The ball eluded two Alton defenders before it got to Osterhout’s feet.
Whitehead, who left the game in the first half when he leaped and knocked heads with a Redbirds defender, made it 3-0 at 65:34. The play began with another Peterson throw-in from the left side that slipped by the Redbirds defense and went to the feet of Whitehead, who scored from just a couple of yards out.
Stenger ripped a 35-yarder that caromed off the right post and into the net at 74:43, extending the Kahoks’ lead to 4-0.
“We played flat the whole game,” first-year Alton coach Nick Funk said. “You get goals like that when you don’t give everything you’ve got on the field. You can argue that (some of them) weren’t going to go in. But the fact of the matter is we just didn’t play hard.
“They were flying to the ball well tonight. They played hard all the game. They just outplayed us.”
Collinsville outshot Alton 22-6 and held an 11-3 advantage each half. The Kahoks had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.
“The boys were just resilient,” Smith said. “They were first to every ball tonight. I really did feel we had the better of the play. That’s a good soccer team over there.”
Senior Brett Niedzwiecki had the shutout in goal for the Kahoks.
Funk believes his team will be ready to play the Kahoks again.
“I’m not too worried about that,” he said. “We’ve done well bouncing back. We’ll go in and let them know that Tuesday could be it. I think they’ll step up and face that.”
Smith expects a tough match the next time around.
“I guarantee you next Tuesday night isn’t going to be anything like tonight,” he said. “We just happened to play better tonight. We have to keep it going.”