Hillsboro senior Mark Moore had scored 33 goals this season going into Thursday’s district soccer championship match against Windsor. That was tenth in the metro area. But the 34th goal he scored in the second half at home last night may arguably be the biggest of his career, as he slipped a ball around the left goal post, just out of the reach of the Owls’ keeper. That goal was enough to give Hillsboro a 1-0 victory, and their first district title since 2016.
These meetings at the end of the season between the Hawks and Owls are becoming a bit of a tradition. The two teams have met in the district title match the last four years. Thursday’s victory evened those last four games at 2-2, the Owls taking the district title in 2017 (3-0), and 2018 (2-1, in overtime), while the Hawks also won in 2016 (2-1).
Moore’s tally at the 50:37 mark in the second half was a thing of beauty. “It was a great effort,” head coach Chris Schacht commented. “I think he saw a little daylight and just decided to give it a go.”
When you’re tied for tenth in scoring in the metro area, you have a tendency to be marked pretty well by your opponents. Thursday, the Owls blanketed Moore, sometimes having as many as four individuals circling his every move. Frustration is a natural reaction, but Moore said it has become commonplace lately. “I’ve become used to it this year, and I knew it was coming,” he said. “I knew if I slipped through, I could get a goal, so that’s what I dialed in on.”
Moore elaborated on his scoring chance. “I got the ball at about the 50, started dribbling towards the goal, and a few guys dove in on me,” he described. “I went back and forth between feet. When I got past the last defender, I hit it as hard as I could with my left foot, and it snuck in near post.” He was a little modest about “a few guys dove in on me.” Unless a few means four. Moore somehow, like a bullet shot from a gun, split the entire defense while maintaining control of the ball. The placement of his kick was the only place he had a chance to score, and he hit it perfectly. And when the back of the net rippled from the impact of the ball, a collective shout was released, a huge weight was lifted off the team’s shoulders, and for all intents and purposes, at least in Moore’s mind, the match was decided. “I thought we had a chance to get a couple, but I knew one was all we needed to win.” Junior forward Jacob Bogowith agreed. “We were dominating the whole game, so I wouldn’t say I was confident, but it felt like there was a relief coming off of my shoulders. I know we were all extremely happy.”
And the Hawks can thank junior goalie AJ Krasnesky for that. After a scoreless first half where the Hawks controlled most of the first 40 minutes, the Owls came out determined in the second half. Windsor put on a pretty heavy push, and Krasnesky had to come up big a few times. “I think it was probably a little natural after controlling most of the first half,” Coach Schacht said of the Windsor attack. “The boys bounced back pretty quickly though, and AJ was up for the challenge.” Senior defender Kyle Warren said the first few minutes of the second half was a time of evaluation. “I think we were just trying to figure out how they would play the second half,” he said. “And once we figured it out, we took control and kept it on their side.”
Coach Schacht said the team benefitted from the way opponents have been recently defending the Hawks. “I think with the way a lot of teams have been packing it in on us the majority of the game, we have gotten used to it,” he stated. “It has helped the boys understand the positives of staying patient and buying in to what we do and trusting each other. Scoring more is fun, but knowing it only takes one is something the boys understand.”
With the exception of a couple of times in the first half, and that second half push, the Hawks kept the pressure on the Owls for the majority of the match. To Windsor’s credit, they repelled each threat. After Moore’s goal, both Werner Finder and Colton Leonard had nice chances to extend the lead, but neither could quite finish. The last minutes of the contest saw the Hawks smartly, and strategically, keep possession of the ball for the majority of the remaining time.
Bogowith said that playing when the game is scoreless can make a team either overly cautious, or too aggressive. “I believe it depends on the situation, but figuring out what to do is the tricky part,” he noted. “That’s most of what being a quality soccer player is about…good decision making. Everybody on the team has that quality, and that’s what makes us so good, I believe.”
With so much riding on the contest, nerves were sure to play a factor on both sides. With nine seniors on the roster, the Hawks were able to pull on their experience. “I was nervous before the game because this could end our season,” senior Andrew Bridges pointed out. “But with me, once the game starts, I push all the nerves and emotions aside and focus on the task at hand.” Sophomore Dylan Mooney tried to follow the older Hawks’ example. “I wasn’t nervous,” he admitted. “I just kept a cool and calm level and played the game, doing my best to score.”
The fact that these two teams have met so often in these situations is hard to overlook. But, according to Coach Schacht, the rivalry, and the loss in overtime in the title match last year, wasn’t really a factor. “To be honest, it wasn’t really emphasized,” he commented. “Our message to the players was to worry about what we do, and what we can control, and not worry about our opponent. I’m sure it was in some of the players’ minds, but that was last year and a different team.”
Seniors like Warren and Bridges admitted it was a motivating factor. “Redemption felt great,” Warren declared. “To get to celebrate with my brothers, who I have played with the whole season, to see some of the community here supporting us and coming out in the cold, and to see Coach Schacht smile couldn’t be any better. I love Hillsboro.” Bridges said this was something personal for the entire team. “This means everything,” he stated. “We’ve been working hard since the summer and this is just the first thing we’ve won. We are still hungry and are looking forward to Tuesday.”
What Tuesday brings is a sectional match at North County. The Raiders, 2-1 upset winners over #1 seeded Cape Central in their district, comes into the match with a 15-7 season record. The Hawks are 18-5-1. The match begins at 6:00 p.m. The two teams met on October 17 at North County in their only meeting of the season. The Raiders won that match, 5-1. Mitchel Hickson tallied the only goal for the Hawks. The loss stopped a six match winning streak for Hillsboro.
But next Tuesday is another day, with a lot more riding on this match. “I think we just need to play our game, limit mistakes, and make good on our chances in the attacking third,” according to Coach Schacht. The winner of Tuesday’s match will face either Webster Groves (18-6) or Ladue (14-12-1) next Saturday.