Priory Rebels coach John Mohrmann knows one thing for sure about postseason soccer action.
“All games in November are difficult,” Mohrmann.
The Rebels (18-4) face another tough task when the Orchard Farm Eagles (22-1) comes play in a Class 2 sectional game at 3 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 13).
Priory is the defending Class 3 state champions, scoring a 3-0 win last fall against Lincoln College Prep. This year, however, the Rebels were moved down a class by the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Priory has three state championships overall.
To remain in the hunt for a fourth state crown, the Rebels must get past the Eagles.
“Orchard Farm is a very good team,” Mohrmann said. “They have scored a lot of goals, and they attack with skill and good player and ball movement. And they have a number of very good, experienced players.
“We expect to face a team that’s flying high, excited to win their first district title and eager to extend their magical season. We need to bring intensity and focus, and play to our ability. We know it will be a difficult game. “
The Rebels are playing well, too. Priory ended the season with a 14-game winning streak.
Mohrmann liked how his squad overcame some adversity after a 5-4 start to the season.
“One of our goals at the beginning of the season was to try to improve each day, each week. We began the season with a lot of players new to the varsity,” Mohrmann said. “Sometimes in the beginning of the season new players need to gain experience, and we coaches need to figure where players fit best into the system. We lost a few very close games against good teams—teams like Lindbergh, Webster, and CBC, who are all still playing in the postseason—but we gained valuable experience.
“And as the season progressed, we gradually improved in skill, tactical awareness, and mental toughness. Then we began to play with more consistency, and we won a few of those big games, including against league rival John Burroughs and Metro Catholic Conference large school powerhouses, De Smet and Chaminade. We have faced obstacles—like some unfortunate injuries—but we’ve managed to stay focused on the main goals — get better each week, and play one game at a time. “
The Rebels met St. Clair in a District 5 semifinal and scored a 9-1 victory. Mohrmann played everyone in the win.
“The district semifinal against an inexperienced St. Clair team allowed our whole squad to play and retain their sharpness,” Mohrmann said.
That win set up the district championship game against Whitfield. The two programs know each other well.
“We have a long history with Whitfield. Back when we only had two class divisions for soccer, we were often in a district with Whitfield,” Mohrmann said. “And we always played each other in the regular season until the past few years. These were usually close matchups, but during the years when Whitfield was winning multiple state titles they usually had their way with us. As the soccer program at Priory gradually improved, that shifted somewhat.”
Whitfield (15-5) handed Orchard Farm its only loss this season. The Warriors whipped the Eagles 6-2 on Oct. 28.
So Mohrmann and his squad expected the game to be hard fought.
“We knew this would be a tough game in the district final on their field,” Mohrmann said. “Whitfield has a great coaching staff, and their young team is fast improving. They had a great season, and we knew they would be organized and prepared.”
Priory went on to score a 3-0 victory and win the district title.
“Fortunately, we scored in the first two minutes, which helped us play a bit more relaxed,” Mohrmann said. “Still, they played very hard and they were organized, which made it difficult for us to add to the lead. Despite numerous scoring chances, the half ended 1-0, and nothing seemed certain.”
Senior midfielder Sandeep Yanamala scored quickly for a 1-0 lead. The game came at 2:40.
“The ball bounced out to senior Sandeep Yanamala at the edge of the penalty area, and he took a quick low shot just inside the far post,” Mohrmann said.
Senior forward Joe Hunt scored early in the second half for a 2-0 lead. The game came just 15 seconds into the second half.
“They centered off, but we intercepted a pass, and then Yanamala slotted senior Joe Hunt through the seam and, with a defender leaning on him, Joe finished calmly past the oncoming keeper,” Mohrmann said. “After going up 2-0, we created many more opportunities, but we didn’t seal the game until, with 12 minutes left, junior Brayden Schnurbusch scored on a long cross that found the net in a crowded penalty area.”
Junior keeper Ross Van Bree earned the shutout for Priory.
“Ross was not tested too much, but he commanded the box on crosses and made a couple key saves on long-distance shots that skipped on the wet grass,” Mohrmann said. “More importantly, senior center backs Charlie Ferrick and Michael Spencer organized the defense and dominated the middle of the field.”
The district title was satisfying, Mohrmann said.
“Winning dstrict is always a big deal,” Mohrmann said. “We have experienced enough disappointments in district to know this is special, especially against a team of Whitfield’s quality. The team was happy, but we quickly began thinking about the next game.”