Coach, Players Say Team Is Best in Years

Aro Ntatin ties the game with St. Pius X. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Aro Ntatin (left) sends the game with St. Pius X into overtime by scoring a goal with 2:24 left on Sept. 14 in Brentwood. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

But narrow losses, even to good teams, sting

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

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.

Goalkeeper Justin Redfering warms up before a game. He and Jordan McGehee have shared time in the net this season.
Goalkeeper Justin Redfering warms up before a game. He and Jordan McGehee have shared time in the net this season.

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.”

Brentwood coach Cory Grage has a final word with his team before facing St. Pius X. He's in his 15th season with the Eagles.
Brentwood coach Cory Grage has a final word with his team before facing St. Pius X. He’s in his 15th season with the Eagles.
Senior midfielder Eddie Wright works the left sideline against Jim Smith of St. Pius X.
Senior midfielder Eddie Wright works the left sideline against Jacob Michael of St. Pius X.
In this and the next two photos, Seamus Saunders (right) battles for the ball with Jim Smith of St. Pius X.
In this and the next two photos, Seamus Saunders (right) wins a battle for the ball with Brenden Schaeffer of St. Pius X.

DSC_7195 Seamus Saunders 1st

DSC_7196 Seamus Saunders 1st

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.

Jordan McGehee makes a diving save in the first half against St. Pius.
Jordan McGehee smothers a St. Pius shot in the first half.

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.”

Aro Ntatin goes against Jim Smith of St. Pius.
Aro Ntatin leaps to head a ball against St. Pius.

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.”

Senior midfielder Marcos Sanchez against St. Pius X.
Senior Marcos Sanchez against St. Pius X.
Senior Alex Smoller directs the ball in the second half against St. Pius.
Senior Alex Smoller directs the ball in the second half against St. Pius.
Senior sweeper Mike Mills during halftime of the close one against St. Pius.
Senior sweeper Mike Mills during halftime of the St. Pius game.

Hancock heartbreaker

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.”

In this and the next two photos, Aro Ntatin ties the score with Hancock before halftime and celebrates with Seamus Saunders and Cristian Sanchez.
In this and the next two photos, Aro Ntatin ties the score with Hancock before halftime and celebrates with Seamus Saunders and Cristian Sanchez.

DSC_7936 Aro Ntatin goal 1-1 1st

Aro Ntatin hugs Cristian Sanchez after Ntatin ties the game with Hancock in the first half.
Seamus Saunders (left), Aro Ntatin (center) and Cristian Sanchez.
Cristian Sanchez reacts after giving Brentwood the lead over Hancock in the second half.
Cristian Sanchez (right) and Quinn Evans react after Sanchez’s goal gives Brentwood the lead over Hancock in the second half.
Alex Reidel and his teammates listen to coach Cory Grage during halftime of the Hancock game.
Alex Reidel and his teammates listen to coach Cory Grage during halftime of the Hancock game.

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
Assists: Bhattacharya
Saves: McGehee 6, Redfering 3

Sept. 14: lost to St. Pius X-Festus 2-1 in OT at Brentwood
Goals: Ntatin
Assists: Saunders
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

 

Mahoto Sasaki drives the ball in front of Will Brown.
Mahoto Sasaki drives the ball in front of Will Brown.

Neal Bhattacharya pressures goalkeeper Jim Smith.
Neal Bhattacharya pressures goalkeeper Mike Boyer.
Marcos Sanchez tees off.
Marcos Sanchez tees off.
Sean Reilly cuts off an attack from Jax Byington.
Sean Reilly cuts off an attack from Jax Byington.
Jake Burkhardt (right) challenges Jax Byington.
Jake Burkhardt (right) challenges Jax Byington.
Quinn Evans settles the ball in front of Steven Charleville.
Quinn Evans settles the ball in front of Steven Charleville.
Mike Mills aims a header over Jason Rothweiler.
Mike Mills aims a header over Jason Rothweiler.
Mahoto Sasaki slips the ball past Will Brown.
Mahoto Sasaki slips the ball past Will Brown.
Neal Bhattacharya tries to keep the ball in bounds.
Neal Bhattacharya tries to direct the ball.
Aro Ntatin can't believe the official's ruling in the first half.
Aro Ntatin can’t believe an official’s ruling in the first half.
Forward Quinn Evans sees an opening to the goal.
Forward Quinn Evans sees an opening to the goal.
Sean Reilly boots the ball into play.
Sean Reilly boots the ball into play.
Jordan McGehee makes a save in the first half.
Jordan McGehee makes a save in the first half.
Noah Lee (right) and Justin Redfering at halftime.
Noah Lee (right) and Justin Redfering at halftime.
Eddie Wright at halftime.
Eddie Wright listens to coaches Cory Grage and Brian Wildgrube.
Cristian Sanchez (left) and Chrishawn Houston at halftime.
Cristian Sanchez (left) and Chrishawn Houston.
Justin Redfering at halftime.
Justin Redfering at halftime.
Jake Burkhardt stops an attack from Brian Welch.
Jake Burkhardt stops an attack from Brian Welch as goalkeeper Jordan McGehee watches.
Cristian Sanchez tries to move the ball up the right sideline as coach Cory Grage watches.
Cristian Sanchez tries to move the ball up the right sideline as coach Cory Grage watches.
Players brace themselves for a St. Pius X penalty kick late in the game . . .
Players brace themselves for a St. Pius X penalty kick late in the game . . .
. . . and leap as the ball approaches.
. . . and leap as the ball approaches. Jacob Michael of St. Pius stands in the midst of Brentwood’s (from left) Jake Burkhardt, Mike Mills, Neal Bhattacharya, Seamus Saunders and Alex Smoller.
Jordan McGehee eyes the Lancers' winning goal in his net as Marcos Sanchez walks past.
Jordan McGehee eyes the Lancers’ winning goal in his net as Marcos Sanchez walks past.

More photos from the Hancock game

 

Sean Reilly puts the ball back into play in the first half.
Sean Reilly puts the ball back into play in the first half.

Freshman Chrishawn Houston is one of the subs coach Cory Grage said is responsible for Brentwood's improved play this season.
Freshman Chrishawn Houston is one of the subs coach Cory Grage said is responsible for Brentwood’s improved play this season.
Blake Lawrence got a lot of playing minutes against Hancock.
Blake Lawrence got a lot of playing minutes against Hancock.
Cory Grage speaks to his players at halftime and the score tied 1-1.
Cory Grage speaks to his players at halftime and the score tied 1-1.
Marcos Sanchez tries to get a shot past goalkeeper Jim Smith.
Marcos Sanchez tries to get a shot past Hancock goalkeeper Muharem Komic.
Blake Lawrence takes on a Hancock player.
Blake Lawrence crowds a Hancock player.
Joe Dreyer awaits an in bounds pass.
Joe Dreyer awaits an in bounds pass.

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