One game is not related to another in the soccer postseason.
That was no more evident than Saturday when Gibault escaped with a 2-1 victory over Freeburg in the championship game of the Class 1A Freeburg Regional.
The top-seeded Hawks, who defeated fourth-seeded Freeburg 9-0 in the regular season, took a 2-0 lead in the second half of the rematch. But the Midgets got within one before coming within a few feet of tying the game in the final two minutes.
How concerning was it?
“A little bit. A little bit,” said relieved Gibault senior Dalton Scace, who scored the Hawks’ first goal at 48 minutes, 39 seconds. “They definitely did a good job of coming out and keeping us on our toes. They did better defensively and they had much better possession than they did last game. They came out with a different attitude.”
Gibault (12-7-1) will play Central (14-5-1) in the semifinals of the Gibault Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Oerter Park in Columbia. The teams did not meet in the regular season.
Freeburg finished 9-11-2.
“All throughout the year, we continued to progress,” Midgets coach Andrew Thompson said. “We were definitely a different team today than we were at the start of the season, for sure. We play a lot of young guys. At any given time, we have six sophomores and two freshmen on the field. We learned together; we built together.”
Gibault had a strong breeze at its back for the first half and outshot the Midgets 9-0, but couldn’t convert.
Finally, Scace ran onto a pass from sophomore Karson Huels and finished from 20 yards away past junior goalkeeper Greg Cockrell for the go-ahead goal.
“Karson put it on a dime for me,” Scace said of his 10th goal of the season. “All that was left was for me to put it away.”
Senior Ben Mueth made it 2-0 at 53:21, taking a pass from Huels in the upper-right corner of the box and finishing inside the far post for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
But Freeburg, which employed five defenders for most of the game, began pushing numbers forward later in the half. The tactic paid off when senior Shawn Morrison found breathing room in the middle of the box and hammered a shot off the hands of diving Gibault senior keeper Trevor Davis to make it 2-1.
The Midgers, armed with confidence, maintained the pressure and nearly tied the game with two minutes to play. But junior Drew Vice’s shot sailed high, and with it went Freeburg’s aspirations to pull off a major upset.
“You can’t take anything for granted in the playoffs,” Gibault coach Matt Reeb said. “The regular-season game was completely lopsided. Then this game, they did very well to keep us out. We had a lot of threats, but we just couldn’t seem to find the net. Finally, we got a chance to break through a couple of times.
“We’re happy to walk away and take care of business.”
Huels was carried off the field with a little more than three minutes to play. The Hawks will need his playmaking ability to enjoy an extended postseason run.
“He cramped up earlier,” Reeb said. “I didn’t catch the last (injury). There were three minutes to play and I was kind of worried about my team. They brought him off the field. I’m hoping it was just a cramp because if we’re going to be at our best, we’re going to need him.”
Huels already was dealing with a sore left knee and had just returned to the field for the semifinals Wednesday when the Hawks defeated Lebanon 7-0.
Junior Drew Toennies and sophomore Max Harad scored two goals apiece as Mater Dei defeated Wesclin 4-1 in the championship game of the Class 1A Carlyle Regional.
“We played pretty good,” said Mater Dei coach James Arnold, whose team led 2-0 at the intermission. “We had shot after shot after shot. They ended up with two shots, and one of them was a free kick. It went through my goalie’s hands, through his legs and into the back of the net. That put us in a bit of a spot, but we scored two more to finish them off.”
Senior Luke Brinker had two assists for Mater Dei.
Junior Trent Calvert had the goal for Wesclin, which finished 11-9-1. The Warriors had been defeated by Mater Dei 8-1 in the regular season.
The Knights (13-6-2) will play Althoff (9-11-2) in the semifinals of the Gibault Sectional at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The teams have played 280 minutes against one another in their last three games without scoring a goal. Althoff had a penalty kick to beat the Knights 1-0 in the sectional semifinals last season.
Massac County Regional
Central erupted for seven second-half goals to paste Mount Carmel 8-1. It’s the Cougars’ first regional championship since 2010.
“They packed it in on us pretty good in the first half,” Central coach Keith Patterson said. “We had a little bit of the wind (against us), so I figured if we held them the first half and they packed it in, we would get out of it. Once we got that first goal (of the second half), they had to open up because they had to come out. Once they came out, it was bam, bam, bam, bam.”
Junior Hunter Kruep scored three goals for the Cougars, two coming in the second half. Other goal-scorers were senior Griffin Kruse, senior Colin Wright, senior Jensen Lake, senior Coty Boruff and junior Drew Wesselmann.
“The boys played really well in the second half,” Patterson said. “A lot of the goals we scored in the second half, we manufactured them. We had some opportunities in the first half. We just weren’t connecting. The second half, everything flipped around. We had the same opportunities, but this time we connected on them.”