NORMAL – Hinckley-Big Rock boys soccer coach Paul Taeuber had Alton Marquette scouted perfectly.
He knew the Explorers were tall and did a lot of their scoring off set plays and corner kicks. Unfortunately for the Royals, height is a hard thing to teach in less than a week’s time.
Marquette scored two goals off corner kicks and rallied from a 2-1 halftime to beat Hinckley-Big Rock, 4-3, in a Class 1A state semifinal.
H-BR (22-5) will play Rockford Keith in the third-place game at 3 p.m. today in Normal.
“There were no surprises today. All the people, scouting reports said it,” Hinckley-Big Rock coach Paul Taeuber said. “They’re tough in the air, they had height on us. They play to the head, they play to the goal.”
Marquette (19-6-1) got the match’s initial goal off its first corner kick attempt. Matt Hampton’s cross bounced across the face of goal and Noah Johnes headed it home near the back post for a 1-0 lead.
H-BR responded just four minutes later. Senior Zach Michels beat Marquette goalie Zach Horn to a 50-50 ball, made one touch around the keeper and tapped it home into the empty net to tie the match at 1.
“I didn’t know if I could make it, I just hustle to the ball every time,” Michels said. “I didn’t want to screw anything up on that one, it was wide open.”
Neither team had many quality scoring chances during the remainder of the half until H-BR finally converted a free kick. Senior Jared Madden laid a perfect ball across the box and Bernie Conley finished with a diving header to the near post, putting the Royals up, 2-1, just before halftime.
But a corner kick again did in H-BR. Just after halftime, Marquette’s Adam Johnes initially headed a cross off the left post, but the rebound came to Nick Schrank and his header found the back of the net.
“Our whole conference is pretty physical, so we’re used to that, but their height got us in set pieces,” senior Madden said.
Marquette took the lead midway through the second half when Hampton beat an H-BR defender and goalie Jason Bohanon to a loose ball, curling a shot just inside the left post for a 3-2 advantage.
“At halftime, I told them we needed to pressure that defense, and I think that pressure started wearing on them,” Marquette coach Jeremy Sanfilippo said.
The Explorers added another goal off a counterattack and took a two-goal advantage with 13 minutes to play. The Royals got one goal back when Billy Weissinger scored on a rebound off of a Conley free kick, but couldn’t completely close the deficit.
Although the Royals held a 2-1 halftime lead, Taeuber noted a number of missed opportunities in the first half.
“We just struggled with that little finish, right hard and low right into the goal rather than finessing it,” Taeuber said. “You put one of those in, of course that’s going to change the game.”