Marquette forward Chris Hartrich scored from point-blank range with 23 minutes left Friday to give the Explorers a two-goal lead as they went on to defeat Althoff 2-1 in the title game of the Class 1A Freeburg Sectional.
With Althoff (11-11-3) putting on heavy pressure, Hartrich got behind the Crusaders defense and scored the goal that made it 2-0 Marquette (14-6-1).
Althoff senior Jimmy Monken cut the lead to 2-1 when he scored with 16 minutes remaining, setting the stage for a wild finish. Playing with a man advantage for much of the second half when a Marquette player received a double yellow card, the Crusaders continued to swarm around the Marquette goal.
But the Explorers withstood the Althoff push to win just the third boys sectional soccer championship in school history and the first under coach Joe Burchett. Burchett is a former Althoff head coach.
“It was one of those games where I thought we played much better than we had practiced in preparing for this night. When all of this started, when we looked ahead, we felt this was a game where we might see Althoff because we knew they had a good team,” Burchett said. “We didn’t play great, but we were able to score when we had a couple of chances.”
The win moves Marquette into the Raymond-Lincolnwood super-sectional Tuesday, where it will take on either Beardstown or Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin. Those two teams are placing in the final of the Macon-Meridian sectional Saturday.
Play was intense Friday as the two teams combined to pick up five yellow cards. Two players — one from each team — were ejected after picking up two yellow cards.
But the difference in the game may have been in the first half. Junior midfielder Kwame Ngwa scored on header with 25 minutes left in the first half to give Marquette a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until Hartrich scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“I didn’t think we came out and played all that well in the first half. I really don’t have a reason for it,” Althoff coach Skip Birdsong said. “But we came out and gave ourselves a great effort in the second half.
“They (Marquette) are physical. ... I was proud of the way our kids kept battling. It was a great effort.”
Coaches from both teams exchanged heated words following the game, but cooler heads prevailed.