Genoa-Kingston’s confidence in its ability to win Saturday’s Genoa-Kingston Class 1A Regional championship game never wavered, even when Hiawatha tied the game, 1-1, with just six minutes remaining and took over the run of play.
“It felt like the momentum had shifted when they scored,” G-K senior forward Devin Tijerina said. “Everyone on our team got frustrated and kept fouling down toward the box and they had a lot of chances for goals on free kicks … We talked about it in the last couple of minutes, saying we could get a goal before it goes to overtime.”
This year was supposed to be better than 2011, with seven seniors back, and anything less than a second straight regional championship would have been a disappointment.
“We’ve become a lot better team in terms of teamwork and passing,” Tijerina said. “We felt like, coming in, we were the better team than [Hiawatha].”
One of the main differences this season has been G-K’s depth. The Cogs had the most kids come out for the team this year in Randy Tate’s six years as head coach, and they were fresh heading into the final minutes.
So the Cogs pressed high, leading to a free kick shot from outside the penalty area that deflected off a Hiawatha player and fell to defender William Crozier, who buried the game-winner with 45 seconds left.
“I think they were hoping to go into overtime, they were getting tired,” Tate said. “[Crozier] came up to press the numbers, and he was in the right place at the right time.”
For the second consecutive year, the Cogs moved into a sectional semifinal, and they have a chance to make it further than any G-K team ever has with a win today.
In 2011, when the season ended with a 3-2 loss to Hinckley-Big Rock in a sectional semifinal, a deep run in the playoffs would have been a pleasant surprise.
This year, the Cogs expect to make it to the sectional final, with Elgin St. Edward, which won its regional despite being a No. 3 seed, standing in their way.
“I think they’re hungry, because we’ve never been past the first game in the sectional,” Tate said.
G-K will head to Keith Country Day School in Rockford on Tuesday to face the Green Wave, who come into the game with a 10-12 record.
While confidence helped press the Cogs to victory on Saturday, Tijerina knows hubris could lead to the season’s end on Tuesday.
“We don’t know very much [about St. Edward],” Tijerina said. “We’ve just got to come out and play as hard as we can and not get over-confident.”
Royals head to Mendota
Hinckley-Big Rock will head to the Class 1A Mendota Sectional to play Princeton in a semi-final match on Tuesday.
The Royals beat Somonauk, 2-0, on Saturday in the Class 1A Aurora Central Catholic Regional championship after the Bobcats won both regular season meetings. The Royals hope to make their another deep postseason run after losing in the Super-sectionals last year.
“Last year, we didn’t play as good throughout the season,” senior Jared Madden said. “This year, we played pretty good throughout the season, and we’re stepping up in the postseason.”