To remain alive in the postseason the defending Class 3 boys state soccer champion Parkway Central Colts must jump over a huge hurdle.
The Colts (18-6-2) face the Ladue Rams (15-10) at 6 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 6) at Parkway Central in a sectional match.
The two teams met in the season opener and Ladue earned a 4-2 victory. But that was a long time ago, Parkway Central coach Brian Adam said.
“That first game of the season is so far in the past, that it feels like a previous season,” Adam said. “So much learning and evolving happens through the course of the season that it doesn’t quite feel like a rematch.
“The guys like the idea of a home-field advantage. I think that wherever we play this game, both teams will have a big, vocal fan base.”
In that loss to Ladue, the goals scored by the Rams came on set pieces, Adam said.
“All of the goals came from long throws, corners, or PK’s,” Adam said.
To reverse the outcome in this coming encounter, the Colts must “finish our chances,” Adam said.
“We do a nice job of creating scoring opportunities, but we could definitely be more efficient,” Adam said. “That would help our mentality. We also need to stay focused on defense. We can’t take any mental breaks as a team.”
The Colts are healthier now as well.
Senior goalie Blake Seigel returned to play in the district tournament. Seigel tore his meniscus o the second day of practice and had knee surgery. He was just cleared to play last week.
Also senior forward Adam Burnett “is close to returning,” Adam said.
“We haven’t had him on the field for us since Oct. 4 due to a sports hernia,” Adam said. “Not playing has been tough on him and I would like to be able to see him suit up for Parkway Central again.”
It’s been a good season for his squad, Adam said.
“We had forgotten that we were the defending state champs early on, but it seemed like a lot of teams gave us their best game,” Adam said. “We were able to pull out some victories and see some players really step up. We also had some gutsy games like come-from-behind wins against Kirkwood and Parkway South, and tough wins against Westminster and Clayton.
“Even our loss against (Francis) Howell was a great game of soccer and our effort in that game was tremendous.”
There were several things that happened this season that Adam liked.
“I enjoy interacting with my fellow coaches and the players and helping them grow on and off the field,” Adam said. “We had moments of service with SPENSA and Special Olympics and different players learned to rely on others for personal struggles or misfortune that hit their family. It is exciting to see people be able to rely on each other.
“I like fluid, attacking soccer and there were moments in the season that we were able to do that and it was fun to just sit back and watch that happen.”
The team was eager to begin postseason play.
The Class 3 District 6 meet featured three other three teams with losing records. The Colts did not much history with the teams.
“I wanted to make sure that we were focused and not overlooking our opponents,” Adam said.
Parkway Central make easy work of McCluer in the opener by earning a 10-0 win.
“We moved the ball very well,” Adam said. “Everybody was unselfish and kept finding the next open player. Everyone healthy played.”
That brought up the title game against St. Charles. The teams had never played each other before.
The Pirates were 5-12 so Adam made sure his Colts were ready and aware of the situation they faced.
“I talked to them about the opportunities that playing soccer presents and how we can learn about ourselves through the game. We discussed how to evaluate the season as moments and memories and how the lessons of the season can help us in each next game,” Adam said. “Not every team can start the season with legitimate expectations to move on from districts. Class 3 starts with 64 teams and only 16 will be playing Tuesday. Many good teams and excellent players are already done with their season. We shouldn’t judge the entire season and experience strictly on postseason success.”
The Pirates forced the Colts to play hard and extend the game into overtime. Parkway Central escaped with a 2-1 victory in overtime.
“We played quite well but struggled to score. St. Charles did an excellent job executing their game plan and repelled attack after attack,” Adam said. “We gave up a goal and found ourselves tied at the end of regulation and some players were showing a bit more stress than when we were leading in the first half and trying to get that second goal. Starting an overtime with serious consequences could easily be difficult.
“If we conceded a goal, our season was over and a lot of players and fans probably didn’t think that was a situation that we should have been in. In the break before overtime began, I reminded the players to not focus on the past, missed chances, or the ramifications of errors in overtime. I encouraged them to handle the moment that we are in, to look for solutions in our current reality, and to play for the enjoyment of what a possible win brings.”
St. Charles scored on their only shot. It came on a free kick from just outside of the Parkway Central box. It bounced around before a St. Charles player (Nick Quay) put it towards the net.
“Blake was able to get his hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out,” Adam said. “This is Seig’s third game getting any minutes as he recovered from knee surgery. He is shaking the rust off and he and Jared (Morton) are both playing at a high level right now.”
Senior forward Camden Dunne scored the game winner for the Colts. He also scored the first goal.
“Camden scored a beautiful diving header on our 32nd shot of the game and 16th on goal,” Adam said. “Our outside back Blake Burnett received a pass from midfield Nikhil Deshmukh and drove towards goal. Right after Blake first touched the ball, a St. Charles player gave him a little trip. It wasn’t a big foul, but it did put Blake off balance and the ball got away from him. As his momentum carried him to the ground, he was able to turn it into a slide tackle.
“It was far away from me, so I couldn’t see and thought it was a foul on Blake coming out. I re-watched it later and saw that, in fact, Blake was fouled and that was what the ref indicated in his explanation to the St. Charles players.”
Teagan Dunne took the free kick just outside the box and served a dangerous ball into the penalty kick spot that a St. Charles player was able to get to first.
“His attempted clearance went to the back post where a double-teamed Camden read the play better than the goalkeeper and two players marking him,” Adam said. “Camden drove the ball into the back of the net.”
To score a big goal like that is not unusual for Dunne. Adam said Dunne plays a smart game and knows what to do and when to do it.
“Camden has taken on the role of go-to-guy for us. He has numerous game-winning goals and just as many game winning assists to make sure that we are accomplishing our success as a team,” Adam said. “He frustrates some of his teammates who would like to see him dribble past defenders and score more often, but he has such an unselfish upbringing that I don’t think that he would ever feel comfortable doing that.
“He has the skill to do it, but it is not how he plays. But, by playing the way he does, he has made it difficult to simply try to mark him to stop our team. He is clutch by making his teammates better.”
The team was happy to escape with the victory.
“There were a lot of relieved faces,” Adam said. “Everyone who is healthy had minutes so everyone was able to contribute. Winning in overtime probably increased the drama and memory.
“I thought that we refocused as the overtime began and playing for the win instead of playing to not make a mistake made a difference.”
It was the Colts’ seventh district championship. It was the program’s third since the state switched to three classes in 2012