Saunders, Sasaki tie it late but Crossroads wins PKs 3-2
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Put yourself in the shoes, or cleats, of the Crossroads high school boys soccer team last week.
Heading into your match with Brentwood in the first round of the Class 1 District 2 tournament on Monday, you had to be feeling pretty confident. Your team had won five of its last six games. You had beaten Brentwood twice this fall, including three goals to nada in the last meeting. You had a winning record and the Eagles, seeded behind you, had a losing record. As you warmed up on Principia’s pitch, your fans vastly outnumbered Brentwood’s.
If you had seen Brentwood’s injury report you would have been further encouraged. Gone from the lineup were Quinn Evans (back spasms), Jimmy Thomas (broken arm) and Christian Sanchez (broken collarbone). Midfielder Bradley Jones was playing with a cast on his hand (broken thumb). Seamus Saunders limped occasionally.
Then the game began and, barely one minute in, Andrew Kowalkowski popped one into Brentwood’s net. Your 100-plus fans went wild. You might have thought at the time that this would be one of those fun games, a nice warm-up before the district title match with Principia.
But as most of you Brentwood fans know, the Eagles had other plans. Crossroads continued attacking but BHS’s lanky, 6-foot-3 goalkeeper Jordan McGehee stopped every shot. At halftime the Current still led only 1-0.
Crossroads stayed on the offensive in the second half but McGehee, though only a sophomore, never cracked.
“Jordan had a couple of phenomenal saves,” said BHS coach Cory Grage. “That one that was off the post and right back at him, just standing on his head — it was fantastic.”
“We were able to possess the ball more in the second half,” said Rayce Lynch. “We opened our mouths, talked, communicated, and got an offensive push. We were in their end for about 10 minutes.”
Mo to Saunders to net
With 12 minutes left in the game, Brentwood’s Saunders took a pass from Mahoto Sasaki and punched it into the net. Tie score.
“I was on the backside and saw the whole thing happen and it was awesome,” said Lynch. “The ball just went in and I was ecstatic.”
Said Grage, “Mo was working hard, fed Seamus a really beautiful ball and Seamus made a little chip over the top of the goalkeeper and stuck it in the back of the net. It was a pretty play. Mo and Seamus just found each other in the second half. They were able to work off each other and produced a couple of opportunities and, if nothing else, were just able to run at the defense a bit.”
In the first 15-minute overtime period the Current launched shot after shot. But McGehee, with defenders such as Rayce Lynch and Sean Reilly filling in the gaps, surrendered nothing.
“We talked a lot between the overtimes about possessing the ball,” said Grage. “In that first overtime we were just clearing it out and our clears were only going out 30 or 40 yards and they were just teeing up and coming back at us again.”
In the second OT period, the Eagles went on the offensive but got nothing past Crossroads goalkeeper Tyler Doll.
So after all that effort, a total of 110 minutes of playing, the game was settled in a penalty shootout. The tiebreaking procedure is for each coach to choose five shooters to take turns teeing off from the penalty mark, 12 yards from the keeper. The team that makes the most goals out of five attempts wins.
Grage chose the same five he used in the only other penalty shootout BHS was in this season: Ben Moran, Eddie Wright, Bradley Jones, Marcos Sanchez and Seamus Saunders had gone five-for-five in a victory over Hancock.
But against Crossroads, only Jones and Saunders scored and the teams were tied with two apiece as the final shooter, Kowalkulski, stepped up. He got the ball past McGehee for the 3-2 edge and a spot in the district title game.
Seniors: ‘There were some great times’
The season-ending loss was especially tough on Brentwood’s six seniors: Jones, Lynch, Moran, Noah Lee, Michael McGrath and Michael Logan.
“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Lynch said minutes after the game. “There are some rough times, like right now, and there were some great times. But I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. It sucks that it’s a bad memory but at the same time it’s been great.”
Said Jones, “We played a lot better ball. We locked down their No. 10 [Kowalkowski], who’s a solid guy. We challenged their sweeper and challenged their keeper finally. We got some offensive push. We struggled a little bit at the end with defense, and didn’t really have an offensive push in overtime, but at least we got to PK.”
Grage was glad to hold Kowalkowski to only one goal.
“He’s their playmaker,” the coach said. “We man marked him the last time we played them, had one guy stick on him the whole time. I talked to the boys about it before the game today and asked them if we needed to do that. They said, ‘No, we’re going to just make sure that on the defensive end we take responsibility for finding him and marking him up with whoever is nearby. For the most part we did that.”
Moran was gratified that the Eagles put up such a fight.
“I feel like this was our best time against them,” he said. “We marked them strong defensively, played them tight and didn’t let them get the opportunities they got previously.”
The Eagles ended the season with a record of 8-10. They took third place in the South Central AA Conference, behind Bayless and second-place Crossroads and ahead of Hancock and last-place Valley Park.
Crossroads went on to beat Principia 2-1 for the district title. The Current, 11-7-1, will play Saxony Lutheran on Nov. 8 in the state quarterfinals.
2014 BHS Boys Soccer Results
Final record: 8-10
Sept. 2, beat Hazelwood East 10-0
Sept. 4, lost to Bayless 8-0
Sept. 8, beat Metro 5-2
Sept. 12, lost to Crossroads 3-2
Sept. 15, lost to Bayless 3-2
Sept. 16, lost to Principia 6-0
Sept. 19, beat Hancock 3-2 in shootout
Sept. 23, beat Valley Park 3-2
Sept. 24, beat Cleveland NJROTC 7-1
Sept. 29, lost to Clayton 5-0
Sept. 30, lost to Crossroads 3-0
Oct. 1, lost to St. Pius X-Festus 10-0
Oct. 6, beat McCluer 2-0
Oct. 7, beat Hancock 3-0
Oct. 16, lost to Liberty Wentzville 2-0
Oct. 17, lost to Windsor C-1, Imperial, 3-0
Oct. 21, beat O’Fallon Christian 2-1
Oct. 22, lost to De Soto 3-2
Oct. 23, beat Valley Park 3-2
Oct. 27, lost to Crossroads 2-1 (3-2 in penalty kicks)
All photos, from Oct. 27 game with Crossroads, by Steve Bowman