Typically going unbeaten in a tournament over the course of four games would leave a team sitting pretty and the odds on favorite for a first place title or at least in contention for a spot in the title game.
But this year’s Carlinville Kickoff Classic was anything but typical as a good deal of parity between the teams in Pool A and a runaway favorite separating themselves from the competition in Pool B left some teams needing help to figure out where the chips would fall and even some teams hoping that one team would allow just one more goal to their opponent no matter if that game was victory or not. Sound confusing? It was.
The Hillsboro High School boys soccer team was one of those teams hoping for just one more goal scored on an opponent as they were tied with Springfield Lutheran High School on tournament points. Both teams had seven points going into their final pool play match up, and since the two teams tied each other 1-1 in their head to head match-up, who represented Pool A in the championship game would come down to a “goals allowed” tie breaker, an advantage held by Lutheran.
So with the orange and black taking care of business on their end by means of a 2-0 victory over Athens, their attention turned to the Crusaders and their tilt with the Metro-East Lutheran Knights.
Unfortunately for the Toppers, the Crusaders took care of their own business as well shutting out the Knights 1-0 and relegating the Toppers to the third place game against the EAWR Oilers.
When all was said and done, it would be the Toppers who continued their winning ways, downing the Oilers 2-0 and bringing home their highest finish in the tourney in over ten years.
Even though Hillsboro would go on to shut out EAWR, it was very nearly not the case as the Oilers controlled the ball at midfield and looked up the left side just minutes into the contest.
With a little space, the EAWR forward got a good look on net and rocked a ball right off the crossbar above Topper keeper Shaw Riggs’ head and out of bounds.
The clanging of the ball off the bar seemed to awaken Hillsboro as they quickly buckled down and kept the Oilers spread wide in the middle of the field.
Meanwhile, the Toppers would generate some offense of their own as they used that spread field to move the ball around the attacking EAWR squad.
Even though they would very much control the tempo and motion of the game, it wouldn’t be until the final minutes of the first half before the hard work would pay off for Hillsboro.
With 3:31 left before the break, senior midfielder Joe Mattson controlled the ball just past midfield and created a little space with a nice move on his Oiler midfield counterpart. From there, Mattson would touch a perfect pass off to fellow senior mid Josh Bauman, who buried his shot up and over the EAWR keeper’s left shoulder, giving Hillsboro the 1-0.
When play resumed in the second, the Toppers wouldn’t have to wait nearly as long to find the back of the net again as Mattson, once again being steady with his ball control, found sophomore forward Ethan Lentz just inside the 18 yard box just minutes into the frame.
Lentz would take matters into his own hands from there, rocking the shot on net and beating the Oiler keeper to the low right side to give Hillsboro the commanding two goal advantage.
From there, the Toppers would stymie the EAWR attack and use their passing ability to move the ball up and down the field while the Hillsboro defense, anchored by seniors Jake Holcomb and Tyler Watson along with sophomores Ayden Brewer and Devin Speiser, did the rest in shutting down the Oiler attack and bringing home third place honors.
“Really, really proud of the effort out of our guys,” Hillsboro coach Jason Burke said. “This is the best we’ve done over here at the Classic in as long as I can remember and it’s a testament to their hard work. To go 4-0-1 and only give up two goals the entire time over here is just wonderful. We would’ve loved a chance at the title game but we did what we could to get there and came up a little short. This is great to go undefeated here though. Hopefully we continue to play well.”
Carlinville Kickoff Classic
Third Place Game
Hillsboro 1 1 - 2
EAWR 0 0 - 0
Scoring: Hillsboro - Josh Bauman (Joe Mattson), Ethan Lentz (Joe Mattson).
Record: Hillsboro (5-1-1).
Toppers Stretch Unbeaten Streak To Seven
After a disappointing showing in their season opener, a contest they led 2-1 only to fall to the North Mac Panthers 4-2, the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team has been on a streak as of late going unbeaten in their last six games.
During this streak, the Toppers have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 16-2, thanks in part to a huge eight goal output in their home opener against the Taylorville Tornadoes, but also, and even more importantly thanks to an unbelievably staunch and stingy defense anchored by seniors Tyler Watson and Jake Holcomb and sophomores Devin Speiser and Ayden Brewer. Toss in steady goaltending on the part of junior Shaw Riggs and sophomore Matt Page and it’s easy to see why the Toppers have enjoyed some good fortune as of late.
That good fortune would continue on Saturday morning, Sept. 7, as the orange and black traveled to Effingham St. Anthony for a non-conference showdown against the Bulldogs and came away with a big 2-2 tie.
The tie would extend the unbeaten streak to seven but also give the Toppers the best result they’ve had against the Bulldogs since adding them back onto the schedule three seasons ago.
The long bus ride east affected the Toppers very little as the visitors took it to the host team immediately, moving the ball seemingly at will offensively and attacking from the get go. When the ball wasn’t in the possession of the Hillsboro offense, it was still in good hands as Riggs, making his sixth start of the season, was steady between the pipes.
The Toppers would have a bit of a scare at the 6:15 mark of the first as the Hillsboro backbone was whistled for obstruction, resulting in a free kick for St. Anthony just outside the Bulldog’s 18 yard box. The shot would loop directly over the wall of the Topper defense but into the waiting hands of Riggs, who made the save and sent it back up the other way.
At the 12 minute mark of the first, Hillsboro would very nearly break through as Brewer kept the play alive on the right side of the field and brought the ball up all alone. From there, he was able to connect with fellow sophomore Ethan Lentz up top, but the forward’s shot would go wide and out of play.
At the halfway point of the first, the Toppers would finally break through as sophomore forward Gavin Matoush took a throw in from the right side and shot the ball on frame. Matoush’s shot would fool the Bulldog keeper and freeze him right in his tracks as the ball found its way into the back of the net, putting Hillsboro up 1-0.
The lead would be short lived however as St. Anthony answered back with a tally of their own just two minutes later and it evaporated completely with 2:55 left in the half as two redirected free kicks resulted in two Bulldog goals and a 2-1 Topper deficit at the half.
When play resumed in the second, Hillsboro came out gunning and were rewarded for their efforts just 3:31 into the half as Lentz took a nice pass from the right side and deflected a shot off of the St. Anthony defender for the goal, knotting the score at 2-2.
The Toppers would keep up the attack, very nearly scoring on their next two possessions, first with senior midfielder Josh Bauman shooting wide and then fellow senior Joe Mattson hitting the crossbar.
Hillsboro would keep up the attack and dominate play in the second, but never could break through again. However, thanks to a Topper defense that worked incredibly hard and shut down every Bulldog attack sent their way, the tie would remain intact and Hillsboro would extend their unbeaten streak to seven.
The Toppers are idle this afternoon but travel to Roxana on Tuesday for a varsity only tilt at 4:30 p.m. The match-up with the Shells also marks the opening game of conference play for the Toppers.
In what looks to be a wide open league, Hillsboro looks to continue its momentum.
September 7 at Effingham
Hillsboro 1 1 - 2
St. Anthony 2 0 - 2
Scoring: Hillsboro - Gavin Matoush 1, Ethan Lentz 1.
Record: Hillsboro (5-1-2).