Take a look at the Quincy Notre Dame soccer team’s post-game celebration after the Raiders beat Lisle 2-0 to win the Class 1A state championship Saturday night at The Corn Crib:
Month: October 2011
With its 2-0 victory over Lisle in Saturday night’s Class 1A state championship game, the Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer team etched itself in the state record book. Here is a look at the records the Raiders either broke or tied with their performance at The Corn Crib in Normal, Ill.:
Fewest goals allowed in Class 1A tournament: 0 — QND broke the previous record of 1
Fewest goals allowed in Class 1A title match: 0 — record is shared by QND, Winnebago (2008) and Lisle (2010)
Fewest shots on goal allowed in Class 1A match: 2 — record is shared by QND, Rockford Keith Country (2009) and Columbia (2010)
Most goals scored in Class 1A title match: 2 — record is shared by QND, Winnebago (2008), Elmhurst Timothy Christian (2009)
Most unassisted goals scored in Class 1A title match: 1 — record is shared by QND and Elmhurst Timothy Christian (2009)
Most goals scored Class 1A title match: 2 — QND’s Alex Rinella broke the record of one shared by five former players
The Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer team will play in its fourth state championship game at 7 tonight against defending Class 1A state champion Lisle at The Corn Crib in Normal, Ill. This is the Raiders’ first state championship game appearance since 2005, when they lost the Class A title to Waterloo Gibault in a penalty-kick shootout.
To capture their first title since 1985, the Raiders need to keep their postseason mojo working. Here are three keys to watch for in tonight’s game:
1. The air up there
The Raiders have been dangerous all season on corner kicks and restarts because of the ability of the likes of Luke Mayfield and Alex Rinella to win balls in the air. To give them a chance to do that, the Raiders need Taylor Reis, Connor Reis and others taking those free kicks to flight the ball into dangerous situations. The more the Raiders can challenge for balls in the air, the better there chances of winning a title become.
2. Stay in rotation
Despite being the starting sweeper, Mayfield is QND’s leading scorer with 14 goals, largely because he moves up into the attack on restarts and corners. That puts pressure on wing defenders Drew Ellerman and Nathan Dreyer to rotate to the middle of the field and avoid counterattacks. They’ve been dynamite at doing that all season and need to make sure they don’t have slip-up tonight.
3. Bombs away
Parker Reis has shown the ability to score from 30 yards and out. Connor Reis has scored from 45 yards out this season. With that in mind, the Raiders need to blast away at the Lisle net and put as many balls on goal as possible. They have to be choosy, too, and make sure they are taking quality shots, but they can’t wait for the perfect moment or series of passes every time. They need to take some chances. It will pay off.
Filling in nicely
Tanner Mellon couldn’t deny there were some nerves about moving into the Quincy High School soccer team’s starting lineup for Saturday’s Class 3A Normal Sectional championship against Moline.
“Maybe the first minute,” Mellon said. “Then I got comfortable.”
It showed. Mellon took the place of sophomore stopper Michael Longo, who suffered a sprained ankle in the sectional semifinal victory against O’Fallon, and helped anchor a defensive effort that allowed just two shots on goal in the Blue Devils’ 2-1 victory at Normal Community High School.
Mellon said it was easy to get comfortable because of the experienced players around him like Dalton Stark and Tyler Cannell.
“Just knowing the players around me all had my back,” Mellon said when asked what made him comfortable.
He did his part, too.
“You’re talking about putting someone into a pressure situation who hasn’t really played that position,” QHS coach Matt Longo said. “Every game that he got in as a wingback during the year, you sort of hope, when the time comes, if he has to do it, he will be able to do it. He did.”
One of the critical reasons the Blue Devils’ defense has been so stingy against high-octane offenses is the play of senior sweeper Dalton Stark. An All-Western Big Six Conference selection, Stark’s physical play did not allow Moline forward Bernard Gamamou to attack the net.
Gamamou scored the Maroons’ lone goal when the Blue Devils failed to clear a ball in the penalty area, but he did not attempt a shot in the second half.
“What can you say about him,” Longo said, “Stark’s a stud back there.”
Proving his worth
Logan Kelle didn’t have to do much to earn the victory in goal, but the QHS senior keeper showed his wares by organizing the Blue Devils’ defensive effort and winning a couple of balls in the air off corner kicks or restarts.
“It wasn’t my best game, but it got the job done,” Kelle said.
Kelle missed the regular-season loss to Moline because of a slight shoulder injury, but he has been solid all season in the net. He has made 61 saves with a .77 goals against average, another key reason the Blue Devils are sectional champions.
“There are no words to describe it really,” Kelle said. “It’s just amazing.”
Controlling the middle
Junior midfielder Zach Merzouk didn’t leave the field the final 20 minutes with the Blue Devils’ clinging to their one-goal lead, and his presence and solid play led Longo to call Merzouk one of the players of the game.
“He helped us as far as more control, getting the ball and creating opportunities,” Longo said. “That last 20 minutes, the ball was on his foot probably more than anyone else.”
The Blue Devils (23-2) advance to Tuesday’s Class 3A Normal Super-sectional against either Naperville North or Naperville Central. The game is at 6 p.m. And will be played again at Normal Community High School. Here’s a suggestion for fans: Get there early or bring a chair. There is very limited bleacher seating at the NCHS complex.
One celebration to another
While the Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer players headed to their hotel rooms to shower following their 2-0 victory over Chicago F.W. Parker in Friday’s Class 1A state semifinals, their legion of fans filled the Hampton Inn lobby ready to celebrate a St. Louis Cardinals victory in Game 7 of the World Series.
There was just one problem.
They had trouble figuring out which channel was Fox on the Bloomington cable system.
Luckily, that didn’t take long to fix. Then it became a raucous party with family, friends and classmates filling the lobby and cheering for the Cardinals, who captured their 11th world championship with the 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
“It’s great that they are all here for us,” senior defender Drew Ellerman said.
While the families and friends enjoyed the celebration, the Raiders were trying to maintain their focus on the one goal they’ve had all season – that’s winning the state championship. QND (19-6-2) faces defending state champion Lisle (20-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Corn Crib in Normal, Ill.
“This is the first time I’ve been in this situation,” Ellerman said. “It feels really good. Everyone is backing us.”
Still, the Raiders know they cannot get too excited over this moment.
“In our minds, we have to stay focused on our goal,” junior midfielder Parker Reis said.
A happy happy birthday
If Luke Mayfield had asked for anything for his 18th birthday, it would have been a berth in the Class 1A state championship game. That’s exactly what the Quincy Notre Dame senior sweeper got.
Mayfield celebrated his birthday Friday with the victory over Parker.
“This is about as good as it gets,” Mayfield said.
Wide, wide open
Parker Reis found himself unmarked and uncontested on both of his goals with no defenders within 5 yards on either attempt.
So did having a wide-open shot where he could pick his spot make him jittery at all?
“I actually think it’s easier,” Reis said. “I get a little bit nervous when there are five or six people around me.”
Reis has eight goals this season with all his shots coming from outside the penalty area.
“He hits it well from out there,” QND coach Greg Reis said.
Supporting each other
Quincy High School is playing Moline in Saturday’s Class 4A Normal Sectional championship at 11 a.m. at Normal Community High School. To get ready and in the right frame of mind, the Blue Devils made the trip Friday night and came to the Corn Crib to root on the Raiders.
Now, the Raiders will return the favor.
QND plans to attend QHS’s game before heading back to the hotel and doing what Greg Reis called “a little chalk talk” in preparation for Lisle.
“We’ll talk and say here’s what we need to look at,” Reis said. “Keeping the guys focused? I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
Lisle is back in the state championship game after winning the Class 1A title a year ago, but the Lions’ true victory came before taking the field in Friday’s semifinal against Warrensburg-Latham.
They won for style.
The Lions’ sign of unity was the decision for every player to go with a mohawk that was dyed. Many of the players died their mohawks blue, although there was at least one red and one orange. There may have even been one or two that were purple.
Getting back OK
Obviously, it was a short trip from the Corn Crib to the Hampton Inn, but fortunately for the Raiders, there were no mechanical malfunctions. They weren’t as lucky after winning Tuesday’s super-sectional at O’Fallon High School.
On the ride home, QND’s charter bus broke down along U.S. Highway 61 near Eolia, Mo. The bus was able to coast into a closed gas station and several parents were able to stop and load their cars with team members. Another charter bus filled with parents was about 30 miles ahead of the team bus and turned around.
They filled the bus with as many as four people cramming into a two-seat section and some sitting or walking in the aisles for the roughly final hour or so home.
To follow the progress of the Raiders in the state championship, log on to twitter.com and follow my tweets. You can find my updates at @SchuckDaddy.
The Illinois High School Association may have found a gem … if this were the state baseball championships.
The Corn Crib in Normal, Ill., is a dynamite facility nestled into the cornfields on the outskirts of the Central Illinois twin cities. This is the home of the Normal CornBelters, a Frontier League baseball team that will play host to the 2012 Frontier League All-Star Game.
The field is entirely turf. No dirt around the bases or home plate, No dirt on the pitcher’s mound either. It’s a unique and pristine setting. The grandstands are comfortable and spacious, and the stadium has 4,000 fixed seats and a capacity of 7,000. The grass slopes behind left and right field are the perfect setting for a picnic during a game or for kids to play catch between innings.
Again, a baseball junkie would find this place to be a little slice of heaven.
This weekend, however, isn’t about baseball.
This is the Class 1A state soccer tournament. The four most deserving small-school programs have avoided the pratfalls of postseason play and have the chance to win a state title. Their reward for surviving this long is to play at a baseball stadium.
Here’s where the IHSA went wrong.
Understand this, the intent of choosing state tournament sites is to find a central location that is easily accessible and provides the teams and their fans with plenty of accommodations and amenities. Bloomington-Normal does that. The Corn Crib, in a sense, does, too.
This is not a soccer facility. They may want to call it that. Heartland Community College does. But this is a baseball facility – a great baseball facility – but that doesn’t mean it is a great soccer facility. For instance, the scoreboard and clock are located beyond the center field fence, meaning the team attacking the North goal has its back to the clock the entire time.
One quick glance to check the time and a player could lose his mark or sight of the ball. It’s rare and sounds like a cop-out in many circumstances, but that shouldn’t be a concern at the state tournament.
This is supposed to be an elite setup for elite teams.
Masquerading this as a soccer facility is a mistake the IHSA has no excuse for making.
Worth the wait
Blake Rupp is used to taking a little extra time to get a state tournament reward.
The Quincy Notre Dame senior forward scored the game-winning goal 1 minute, 33 seconds into overtime Tuesday night, sending the Raiders to a 4-3 victory over Columbia in the Class 1A O’Fallon Super-sectional. QND (18-6-1) advances to Friday’s 7 p.m. state semifinal against Chicago F.W. Parker at The Corn Crib in Normal, Ill., where Rupp will be making his second state tournament.
Last spring, he teamed with Cole Anderson to finish third at the boys tennis sectional and earn a state tournament berth. To get there, Rupp and Anderson had to wait until almost midnight on the first day of play because the tournament was moved inside because of weather. To top it off, Rupp and Anderson needed three sets to eliminate Quincy High School’s Jack O’Connor and Daniel Hayashi 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“That was pretty good,” Rupp said. “This is unbelievable, too.”
Rupp, who didn’t score during the regular season but now has five postseason goals, was johnny-on-the-spot in overtime as Connor Reis launched a throw-in from the right side into the penalty area, bouncing the throw off Columbia keeper Eddie Starr and right to Rupp. It essentially left Rupp with an open net, and he buried the shot.
Asked if he would have been mad had he missed the opportunity, Rupp just shook his head.
“Really mad,” he said.
Fortunately, there was nothing to be mad about it.
‘Greatest feeling of my life’
Needing an equalizer to force overtime, Quincy Notre Dame’s Parker Reis leaned over a rolling ball about 30 yards from the net and rocketed a right-footed shot that tied the game at 3 with 10:35 to go in regulation. The moment he struck it, Parker knew it was going to be good.
“Yes, I did,” Reis said. “It was the greatest feeling of my life.”
Be on the lookout
Columbia was coming off a third-place finish at the Class 1A state tournament last season, was 36 minutes from advancing to the final four this year and brings back seven starters from a team that finished 17-2-1. Needless to say, the Eagles will be one of the odds-on favorites to be a sectional contender next season. It certainly helps having a stellar keeper return.
Sophomore Eddie Starr made a dazzling save with 5:30 to go in the first half when QND’s Taylor Reis ripped a shot from the left wing that forced Starr to make a leaping snare and take away the look at the upper 90. It was one of seven saves Starr made.
Starr wasn’t the only keeper to play big when necessary. Following a little more than a minute remaining in regulation, Columbia’s Nate Alonzo flighted a ball from about 43 yards out on the right wing into the box that created trouble. However, QND keeper Mark Anderson went high to snare the ball, tumbling to his back near the left post and thwarting the Eagles’ last scoring opportunity. Anderson finished with two saves.
Well, a week of vacation has come and gone.
The beauty of taking time off in October is the chance to spend time in St. Louis during the World Series. The city was simply electric before Game 1. After spending time in downtown St. Louis the night before the game — the stadium was lit up and sparking — we had the chance to roam around downtown the afternoon of the game with people everywhere. Despite the rain, the atmosphere was mesmerizing.
Albert Pujols’ bar and restaurant at Westport Plaza was equally mesmerizing. We watched Game 1 there and the entire place seemed to live and die with every at-bat.
Baseball in St. Louis is something special. It was awesome to experience it.
Now, it’s back to the local scene. The Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer team plays Columbia in a Class 1A super-sectional tonight at O’Fallon High School. The winner earns a spot in the final four, somewhere the Raiders haven’t been since 2005. Meanwhile, the Quincy High School boys soccer team is headed to Granite City to take on O’Fallon in a Class 3A sectional semifinal. Blake Toppmeyer is heading to Granite City to provide full coverage.
To follow the progress of the Raiders and Blue Devils, log on to Twitter and follow me at @SchuckDaddy or Toppmeyer at @btoppmeyer.
I’ll go Beyond the Boxscore here after the game and will have playoff football insights as the week progresses.
It’s good to be back.
Since the Quincy Notre Dame football team joined the Mid-State Six Conference in 2006, the Raiders have lost to only one conference member.
The two meet again Friday night with the MS6 championship at stake as both have gone 4-0 in league play. If history is an indicator, expect a hard-fought, slug-it-out affair. So what will it takes for the Raiders, who are ranked fourth in Class 4A, to prevail? Here are three keys to the game:
1. Stop the run
Kendrick Foster, the Richwoods junior running back, already has scholarship offers from Missouri Valley Football Conference schools and is now being courted by Illinois and other Big Ten Conference schools. Why? Speed and toughness. Foster has run for more than 1,300 yards this season and poses a huge threat, especially if he gets to the outside. QND may have the defense to neutralize him. The Raiders allow less than 3 yards per carry and have given up just three rushing touchdowns all season. It’s sort of like the impenetrable force against the immovable object. Which one breaks first ends up in second place.
2. Stay healthy
Luke Hinkamper will be in the backfield for QND for the first time since playing in the first half against Peoria Notre Dame. His injured right collarbone has healed and expect him to tote the ball 20 or more times if possible. The Raiders need him to be healthy and stay healthy. QND has racked up enough injuries, especially in the offensive backfield, but the Raiders have found a way yo improve and get stronger. The depth QND has built with so many younger players getting the opportunity to shine could play to its advantage.
3. Play with confidence
Some prognosticators aren’t giving the Raiders a chance at coming home with the MS6 title. When QND coach Bill Connell hears that, it simply fuels his fire. QND’s only loss came on a late fourth quarter drive by Jefferson City Helias that led to a game-winning field goal. So don’t expect the Raiders to face a huge uphill battle at any point. Should they trail, though, they need to realize they’re not out of it and have the ability to rally. History has proven that.
Each week, Quincy Notre Dame football coach Bill Connell and I will sit down to discuss that week’s opponent, the challenges his team faces and any news surrounding his program. This week, we were talking about the Peoria Richwoods Knights, who the Raiders will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Richwoods Stadium in Peoria.