The 2021 edition of the Kickoff Classic on Route 66 was a collection of emotions for the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team as a forfeit win against Staunton due to quarantine restrictions, then a 3-0 victory against the Lincolnwood Lancers left them with maximum pool points after round one.
Then, more quarantine restrictions gave them another forfeit victory, this time at the expense of co-host North Mac, which propelled the orange and black directly into the title game against the other co-host, the Carlinville Cavaliers, who took a more traditional route into the championship round, dominating their pool and running headlong into Wednesday night’s showdown.
For fans of either side and for scenarios of advancement, it was easy to see the two who belonged in the title match were the ones who were there as an absolutely incredible 80 minutes of soccer capped off the week-long Classic.
After the dust settled, it was the host Cavies who would hoist the first place plaque, but it would take all of those 80 minutes to achieve it.
Fans of traditional, slow paced deliberate soccer would’ve been disappointed in the early minutes of the tilt as both teams played a back and forth track meet style, exchanging run after run in each others defensive zone.
At the 6:23 mark of the first, Carlinville would nearly get on the board as a throw in deep in the Hillsboro zone was placed directly in front of the Topper net and was redirected on frame off the head of senior Levi Yudinski.
Yudinski would get just under the ball and send it over, however, ending the drive but that play set the stage for what would be a back and forth battle of near misses and heart stopping moments.
Hillsboro would answer back at the 8:41 mark of the first as the Cavies were whistled for a foul 35 yards from their end line and senior defender Devin Speiser was called on for the free kick. Speiser’s blast was spot on but he too would get just a bit under the ball and send it over and out of play.
At the 12 minute mark of the half, a Carlinville corner kick deep in the Hillsboro zone would nearly find the back of the net as the redirect was placed just right, but the ball would clang off the post and out of play.
A minute later the home team would attack again, this time moving the ball right up the gut on the orange and black but senior sweeper Ayden Brewer would break up the play with a terrific effort from behind and follow it up with a very similar play on the next Cavalier possession to keep Carlinville off the board.
With 11 minutes left in the first, sophomore net minder Mitchell Lowe would make the first of several spectacular saves as senior Treiton Park had the Topper backline beat dead to rites. Lowe would be there, though, for the excellent doorstep stymie and send it back up the other way.
With 8:11 left, Park would make good on his effort as he would sneak past the Hillsboro defenders again and this time make them pay with a sliding effort on a cross from Yudinski, giving Carlinville the 1-0 lead.
The Toppers would nearly answer back on their next possession as junior Will Christian took matters into his own hands and rocked a shot on frame that would go just wide and out of play.
When the contest resumed after the break, Hillsboro would come out gunning first with sophomore Logan Murray creating havoc in front of the net just one minute into the second. Carlinville keeper Will Meyer came out to play a loose ball and Murray and he collided on a bang-bang play. The Toppers were unable to convert, though, and that would seem to be the trend for Hillsboro in the second as chance after chance would be right there for the taking only to be just out of reach in terms of finishing.
With 26 minutes left in the second half, the Toppers would have another chance as a corner kick deep in the Cavie zone would be awarded. Junior mid Adison Pollard would take the kick and place a perfect looper right in front onto the waiting head of Christian, but he too would send it over and out of play.
From there it would be chance after chance but never any reward and the Toppers would settle for the runner up spot dropping the tilt 1-0.
Thursday’s game against Jerseyville would be much less exciting as an uninspired Topper effort on their home turf left them with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Panthers, dropping their overall record to 4-3.
The orange and black look to rebound this afternoon, Sept. 7, as they travel to Pana to open conference play with a varsity only match up against the Panthers.
Sept. 1 at Carlinville
Kickoff Classic On Route 66
Hillsboro 0 0 - 0
Carlinville 1 0 - 1
Scoring: Carlinville - Treiton Park (Levi Yudinski).
Sept. 2 at Hillsboro
Hillsboro 0 0 - 0
Jerseyville 1 2 - 3
Scoring: Jerseyville - Zack Wargo 2, Drake Goetten 1.
Record: Hillsboro (4-3).