In the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs for the first time in program history, the Hawks hosted Webster Groves’ “A” team on Saturday. The Statesmen, who won Class 3 state championships in 2014 and 2015 and finished second last season, scored two goals in the first seven minutes and beat Hillsboro 4-1.
Tim Velton was the Statesmen’s assistant coach for five years and helped lead Webster Groves (20-6) to the two state titles. This is Velton’s first year as the head coach. Keeping with the school’s nickname, Velton was diplomatic in discussing his team’s victory.
“Hillsboro is a really good team,” he said. “They’re well-coached and organized and I knew we needed to jump on them early because they’re a confident team with a lot of nice wins. It’s easier said than done. It was challenging. My hat’s off to Hillsboro. They’re a terrific team.”
This was perhaps the most talented team Hawks head coach Chris Schacht has had in his 20-plus years as its mentor. Hillsboro finished with a record of 19-6-1 and shut out 11 teams.
Senior midfielder Mark Moore pumped in 35 goals and had 83 points to lead the offense. Four-year starting back Andrew Bridges led a defense that included freshmen Christian Groner and Carson Leonard and seniors Gavin Wokurka and Kyle Warren.
“This was my favorite backfield I’ve played with all four years. This is the most fun I’ve had playing soccer,” Bridges said.
On a mild, sunny day without a lot of wind, Webster Groves stunned the Hawks with a goal at 4:41 to take a 1-0 lead. Owen Culver lifted a shot from over 30 yards right on goal and it snuck under the crossbar behind Hillsboro goalkeeper A.J. Krasnesky.
“We knew (Culver) had a big left foot,” Schacht said. “The gap opened up for him, the shot had a little downward action and it got over A.J. under the crossbar. Then 7 minutes in, we’re down by two goals. You can’t turn back time. The third goal was going to be crucial and it’s unfortunate we didn’t get it.”
The Statesmen took a 2-0 lead at 6:10 when senior midfielder Henry Bante rushed the ball down the right side and crossed it to Julian Tilford, who kicked it past Krasnesky. Webster Groves used precision passing to make the goal look rather easy.
“We pride ourselves in being a team that likes to keep the ball on the carpet and that’s the way we train our players,” Velton said.
“I don’t think a lot of us were ready for how fast (Webster Groves) came out,” Bridges said. “We didn’t back down though. They scored some good goals.”
Moore had two shots on goal in the first five minutes of the second half, but the Statesmen notched the game’s third goal when Benjamin Winkelmann scored at 48:30.
Krasnesky was charged with a yellow card and replaced in goal by senior Noah Pool. Junior forward Jonathan Campbell immediately made it 4-0 when his shot on a free kick went in at 57:39.
Moore got the Hawks on the scoreboard 1:01 later on a beautiful goal.
Senior midfielder Mitchel Hickson served up a pass that Moore flicked with his head past Statesmen keeper Trevor Mihill.
“We didn’t challenge their goalie until the second half when Mark got rolling,” Bridges said. “We didn’t waste any of our offensive opportunities.”
“Mitchel’s got a good leg and he’s accurate in dropping in passes,” Schacht said. “Mark’s been the beneficiary of a lot of those passes and he works hard to get into position to finish them. It was a little poetic justice knowing we could walk off the field with a good effort against one of the best teams in the state.”
Webster Groves meets unbeaten Rockwood Summit (27-0-1) in the semifinals on Friday at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton. The Falcons beat the Statesmen 2-0 on Oct. 17. Velton knows what’s coming.
“They’re a beast of a team,” he said.
Hillsboro reaches state quarterfinals for first time
When North County scored with six seconds to play in the first half to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 2-1, Hawks head coach Chris Schacht wasn’t concerned.
“I reminded them at halftime how much we dominated (the Raiders),” Schacht said. “It didn’t faze them and they picked up where they left off.”
Sophomore forward Colton Leonard scored for Hillsboro with less than 10 minutes to play in the Class 3 sectionals to propel the Hawks to the quarterfinals for the first time in team history with a 3-1 win over North County in Bonne Terre on Nov. 13. Senior Mark Moore was credited with the assist. Moore led the Hawks in scoring with 35 goals, 13 assists and 83 points.
The Raiders beat Hillsboro 5-1 on Oct. 17 and have won district titles in five of the last six years. North County (19-8) ousted Windsor in the sectionals in 2017 and the Hawks in 2016.
“We had teams that were talented enough to get (to the quarterfinals) but for whatever reason couldn’t do it,” Schacht said. “This team doesn’t care who they have to play. They set goals and work as hard as they can to achieve them.”
A corner kick led to Hillsboro’s first goal with less than 20 minutes to play in the first half. Senior back Andrew Bridges used his head to place a shot between the Raiders’ defense and their goalkeeper.
“We let him move up depending on what the opponent does,” Schacht said. “He wins a lot of headers in there. I told him it would be off a set piece.”
Later, Moore floated the ball to senior midfielder Mitchel Hickson in the penalty area and a North County player deflected it with his arm. Hickson converted the penalty kick to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead late in the first half.
North County scored with six seconds to play before intermission.
“After a foul at midfield, we misread the ball and it bounced in front of (Hillsboro goalie A.J. Krasnesky) and their guy turned on it,” Schacht said.
Krasnesky played all but 84 minutes and posted 11 shutouts this season.
“A.J. has been getting better throughout the whole season,” Schacht said. “From Day 1 he’s been working hard with (assistant coach Sam Nansel) and the guys in front of him have been solid. It’s a team effort from front to back.”