But narrow losses, even to good teams, sting
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Halfway into the season, the Brentwood High School soccer team is 4-5 overall and 0-2 in the South Central AA Conference. Don’t let those unexciting numbers fool you. After being below average for the past three seasons, the Eagles are an exciting team this year. For the first time in years, they might end up doing something in the league, perhaps even in the district.
Brentwood started out 3-0, outscoring opponents 18-0. Then they lost five of their next six. But four of the five losses were to teams with winning records, two of whom — St. Pius X and Principia — are ranked in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s top 17 small schools in the area. Even more impressive is that BHS lost to the five by a grand total of six goals – two of the matches went into overtime.
One overtime loss was to St. Pius X, which humiliated the Eagles 10-0 last year. The other, in double OT, was to Bayless, a program that has outscored Brentwood 26-2 over the past three seasons.
Considering that Brentwood hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2010, and has placed no higher than third in the league for the past three years, you can see why the players have high hopes for 2015.
No ‘glaring weakness’
Head coach Cory Grage and seniors Eddie Wright and Seamus Saunders all said it’s the strongest BHS team in at least several years.
“It’s the best team I’ve had in the four years of my high school career,” said Wright, who leads the Eagles in scoring and got four goals in one game. “We’re just pretty balanced in the midfields and the backline. The forwards need a more work but we’re a very balanced team this year.”
“Balanced is definitely a good way to describe it. We’ve got three or four kids coming off the bench that won’t drop our level of play,” said Grage, listing subs Cristian Sanchez, Aro Ntatin, Chrishawn Houston and Alex Reidel. “That’s something we haven’t had in a long, long time. We normally have had holes that we try to fill in and we don’t have those holes this year.”
“I would say it’s the best all-around team,” said Saunders. “We don’t really have a glaring weakness. The nice thing is, if something bad happens, we give up a goal, we aren’t going to fall down. We’re going to fight back. You saw it in this game.”
Taking St. Pius to OT
Saunders was referring to the Sept. 14 overtime loss to St. Pius X. The Lancers are skilled ball handlers and often dictated the flow of the game. But despite BHS goalkeeper Jordan McGehee having to make 13 saves to his counterpart’s four, both teams allowed so few close-range shots that the game was scoreless after 75 minutes.
Pius finally struck pay dirt with 6:44 left. Things got worse for Brentwood when sweeper Mike Mills received a yellow card at 2:40. With him out temporarily, Grage moved midfielder Seamus Saunders to sweeper. Things looked bleak, as Saunders co-leads the team in assists.
But 15 seconds later, Saunders booted the ball toward the Lancers’ goal and forward Aro Ntatin caught up with it and netted it, tying the score with 2:24 left in the game.
“My idea was just to get that ball close to the keeper and hope for it to hit off some people around the goal,” said Saunders. “I couldn’t see anything and then I see the ball trickle in and I was just like, ‘Alright, I’ll take that any day of the week.’”
Said Ntatin, “I knew Seamus was going to put that pass past the defense. Once he kicked it I ran and the ball just sailed in front of me. I thought Eddie [Wright] was going to get it, but I was running and my foot somehow hit it.”
McGehee made one last diving save with 1:09 left to help send it into overtime. Though it felt as if the Eagles had the momentum, it took Jax Byington only 68 seconds into the OT period to win the game for the Lancers. But Grage looked more excited than defeated afterwards as he addressed the team.
“We fought through, got that tying goal,” he told them. “We’ve got to take that next step to beat these teams. Because we’re right there, we’re right there. We just need to take that last step, that finishing touch.”
Said Saunders, “On paper this game is a loss, but for us it’s a win, because that’s one of the best teams we’re going to play this year. For the past three years we’ve lost to them by five-plus goals, and we come out here, take them into overtime and lose 2-1. We can definitely beat the teams in our district and hopefully win a conference championship with that kind of play.”
Brentwood players have kept their chins up through the narrow losses to good teams. But the 3-2 defeat to Hancock on Friday was hard to swallow. Though the Tigers have a winning record and are fielding their best team in years, the Eagles are used to shutting them down, having outscored them 11-2 in the previous four meetings.
Brentwood trailed 1-0 in the first half before Aro Ntatin took Cristian Sanchez’s assist and tied it 6:06 before halftime. The score remained locked until, 18 minutes into the second half, Sanchez found a tiny opening in the right side of the goal and punched it in, his first header, for a 2-1 lead.
“Eddie [Wright] crossed it, I kept my eye on it and just went in with it, tried to stay on my feet,” said Sanchez. “It felt amazing, I was so happy. I thought I had scored the winning goal.”
But 32 seconds later Hancock tied it, and 6 minutes after that they took the lead for good, winning 3-2. Senior Mike Mills looked dejected afterward as he gathered his gear.
“This is a team we should have beaten,” he said. “Of all the games we’ve lost, I think that, without a doubt, this is the one we should have won.”
BHS game results through Sept. 21
More will be provided when made available
Aug. 25: beat Metro 6-0 at Metro
Goals: Eddie Wright 2, Quinn Evans, Marcos Sanchez, Joe Dreyer, Aro Ntatin
Assists: Mahoto Sasaki 2, Wright
Saves: Justin Redfering 2, Jordan McGehee
Aug. 26: beat O’Fallon Christian 5-0 at O’Fallon
Goals: Wright 4, Sasaki
Assists: Seamus Saunders 2, Evans, Chrishawn Houston.
Saves: McGehee 3, Redfering 2
Sept. 1: beat Hazelwood East 7-0 at Hazelwood
Goals: Neal Bhattacharya 2, Evans, Houston, M. Sanchez, Sasaki, Wright
Assists: Wright 2, M. Sanchez, Sasaki
Sept. 4: lost to DeSoto 1-0 at Brentwood
Sept. 8: lost to Bayless 2-1 in 2 OT’s at Brentwood
Sept. 10: beat Gateway Science Academy 3-0 at Gateway
Goals: Bhattacharya, Ntatin, Wright
Saves: McGehee 6, Redfering 3
Sept. 14: lost to St. Pius X-Festus 2-1 in OT at Brentwood
Saves: McGehee 13
Sept. 15: lost to Principia 2-0 in Brentwood
Saves: McGehee 14
Sept. 18: lost to Hancock 3-2 in Brentwood
Goals: Ntatin, C. Sanchez
Assists: Smoller, C. Sanchez
Recent varsity lineup
Goalkeeper: junior Jordan McGehee or senior Justin Redfering
Sweeper: senior Mike Mills
Stopper: senior Alex Smoller
Outside defenders: junior Jake Burkhardt, sophomore Sean Reilly
Center midfielders: seniors Seamus Saunders and Marcos Sanchez
Outside midfielders: senior Eddie Wright, sophomore Neal Bhattacharya
Forwards: juniors Quinn Evans or Aro Ntatin, sophomore Mahoto Sasaki
Top subs: senior Alex Reidel, juniors Aro Ntatin and Cristian Sanchez, sophomore Chrishawn Houston
Team captains: Saunders and Mills
More photos from St. Pius X game
More photos from the Hancock game