Anna-Jonesboro senior Jared Collier saw a chance to be a difference-maker Friday, and he capitalized on the opportunity.
Collier outraced two Althoff defenders to a bouncing ball and tapped a shot into the right corner of the goal with 1 minute, 30 seconds to play in the first of two 10-minute overtimes, and the Wildcats made it hold up for a 2-1 victory over the Crusaders in the championship game of the Class 1A Gibault Sectional at Oerter Park.
“I knew I had to go for it,” Collier said. “Without going hard, that goal wouldn’t have happened. That kid (Althoff senior Will Dall) was fast and I knew I had to outrun him. I knew I had to get a touch on the ball. That’s all it was, just a nice little toe-poke.”
The sectional title is the first in school history for Anna-Jonesboro (18-5-1), which will play Beardstown at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Granite City Super-Sectional. Beardstown won the Altamont Sectional with a 2-1 victory in penalty kicks over Effingham St. Anthony.
“This is fantastic,” Wildcats coach Mark Boomer said. “We just fought back. We held on defense as best we could and took the opportunity when we got the chance. Jared got the chance to break away, and he did. He wanted it bad. They all did.”
Senior Garrett Nimmo set up the goal, serving the ball from midfield. Dall and freshman Nathan Petry each had a step on Collier, but Collier made up the deficit, squeezed between them and capitalized on senior goalie Stephen Toenjes coming off his line.
“I would have liked us to clear it sooner and not allow it,” Crusaders coach Joe Burchett said. “Even a foot-poke out clears it one way or another. That’s between the goaltender and the defender to communicate which one’s going to have it. But it was good hustle from that kid to squeak in there. Good effort from that kid. He was a hustler all game.”
Althoff players crumbled to the ground or knelt with their heads in their hands when the final seconds ticked off the clock. Their last hope was dashed when Anna-Jonesboro sophomore keeper Jake Parr made a sensational diving save in front of the left post with 22 seconds remaining, denying senior Evan Toennies’ bid to tie the game at 2.
“We just ran out of time. It’s a heartbreaker,” said Burchett, who thought Toennies’ shot was good. “A couple of inches one way or another and it’s a goal. But the goalie got down and did his job.”
Anna-Jonesboro grabbed a 1-0 lead at 17:44 when senior Dakota Earnhart flighted a ball from the right wing to the far post, where senior Zach Parr scored his 44th goal of the season.
About three minutes later, Parr hit the left post with a shot that the Crusaders (11-11-3)were able to clear. In the final five minutes of the half, Toenjes made a strong one-on-one save against senior Alejandro Peneda, who found space in the right corner of the box.
Jake Parr tipped out a free kick from 22 yards away by Althoff junior Stephen Waltrip in the 55th minute to maintain Anna-Jonesboro’s lead. In the 75th minute, Parr went to his knees to save a low shot by sophomore Jimmy Monken.
Althoff maintained pressure and tied the game at 86:16 when sophomore Tyler Stone crossed a pass from the right side into the box, where senior Alex Langenstein converted.
Five minutes before Collier scored the game-winner, Earnhart’s free kick from 30 yards away caromed off the right post after Toenjes slipped and fell attempting to make a play.
“We knew we could beat this team,” Collier said. “It was more of a ‘don’t-let-it-get-in-your-head.’ It was an effort deal. We couldn’t get down on ourselves. This is big for us.”