Playing one game in the early morning heat of Saturday, Aug. 28, was bad enough for the Lincolnwood High School soccer team, but two? And against one of their biggest rivals? That added some extra hurdles to the Lancers as they took on Hillsboro in their second game of the Kickoff Classic On Route 66 at North Mac High School.
“Obviously it played a little bit of a factor, but we just got out of our discipline,” said Lincolnwood Coach Joe Webb, who subbed liberally in the first half to keep his players as fresh as possible. “It was exactly what we wanted in the first half, get to 0-0 and maybe build up some momentum, but we were never able to flip that switch.”
On the other side of the field, the Toppers bided their time, waiting for an opportunity to strike, which came two minutes into the second half when Matt Page sent a bouncing header into the Lincolnwood net. Two more goals would come against a worn down Lancer back line as Hillsboro picked up a 3-0 win.
“We were hoping that if we got that first goal, that mental fatigue might take over. At that point it hadn’t,” Hillsboro Coach Jason Burke said. “There were times in the first half where we looked like the ones who had played before, which is a testament to the Lincolnwood guys. We knew if they kept hanging around they could get momentum, so getting that first goal was big.”
From the first whistle Hillsboro was the aggressor on the offensive end, with Ayden Brewer nearly scoring in the opening two minutes. Brewer tried to track down a ball that bounced high off the artificial turf in front of the Lincolnwood net, before Lancer keeper Gabe Armentrout plucked it off his head before he could get a shot on goal.
The Lancers would have a few opportunities of their own, with Austin Thornton coming close six minutes in when he tried to track down a long ball, but was fended off by the Hillsboro defense. That play would be something Lincolnwood hoped would pay off dividends before the game, but Webb said the Toppers did a good job in making sure that didn’t happen.
“We thought we could play over the top a few times, using our speed, but they shut that down pretty quickly and we didn’t adjust,” Webb said.
Burke also knew how dangerous the Lancers were up top, in particular Elijah Aumann, who scored eight goals in Lincolnwood’s first two games.
“We were trying to spread the field and trying to respect Elijah (Aumann) as much as we could because we knew he could burn us in a second, regardless if it was the second game or not,” Burke said. “We have a great rivalry and it doesn’t matter if you’ve played eight games before, you know they’re going to get up for it.”
The Hillsboro defense allowed the offense to have the lion’s share of possession, which turned into a few shot attempts for the Toppers. Things picked up in the final 10 minutes as Logan Murray clanged a ball off the post in a close call that resulted in a goal kick, followed by a hard header by Matt Page that missed by inches with five minutes left in the first half.
Page would finally break through in the second half as he benefitted from being in the right place at the right time and from the extra bouncy nature of the artificial turf.
Goal number two came less than eight minutes later, with Hunter Payne sliding a hard shot under Armentrout and just inside the left post to make it 2-0. The final nail came with 21:34 left in the game, just before a water break, as Mitchell Cunningham looped a shot to the far post for his first goal of the season.
Hillsboro would have a few more opportunities in the last 20 minutes of the second half, but mainly focused on keeping the Lancers away from the Topper net. The Hillsboro defenders and midfielders controlled the middle part of the field and helped goalkeeper Mitchell Lowe collect his second straight shutout win.
“If we keep Mitchell bored, then we’re alright,” Burke said with a laugh. “We’ve been trying really hard to move the ball on the ground and containing. We’ve been preaching 30 to 50 (yards out). We want to make sure we fill that gap and we did today.”
The win moved Hillsboro to 3-1 on the season, with a forfeit win against Staunton included due to the Bulldogs being in quarantine during the tournament. The Toppers will have the opportunity to avenge their only loss of the season on Tuesday, Aug. 31, when they play North Mac, in Virden at 7 p.m. A win would put Hillsboro in the championship game of the tournament on Sept. 3, while a loss would make it a three-way tie between the Toppers, North Mac and possibly Lincolnwood, with head to head play the tiebreaker, followed by fewest goals allowed, goal differential and a coin flip.
To make that happen, the Lancers (also 3-1) would also have to win on Tuesday, as they play Staunton at 5 p.m. in Carlinville in the Bulldogs’ first game out of COVID jail.
August 28 at Virden
Kickoff Classic on Rt. 66
Hillsboro 0 3 - 3
Lincolnwood 0 0 - 0
Scoring: Hillsboro - Matt Page 1, Hunter Payne 1, Mitchell Cunningham 1. Goalkeepers: Hillsboro - Mitchell Lowe (2nd shutout); Lincolnwood - Gabe Armentrout.
Records: Hillsboro (3-1); Lincolnwood (3-1).
Aug. 28-Sept. 1
Kickoff Classic On Rt. 66
August 28 at North Mac
• Lincolnwood 1, North Mac 0
• Hillsboro 3, Lincolnwood 0
North Mac def. Staunton by forfeit
Hillsboro def. Staunton by forfeit
August 28 at Carlinville
• Carlinville 6, Lutheran 0
• Athens 5, Litchfield 0
• Lutheran 4, Litchfield 1
• Carlinville 4, Athens 1
August 31 at North Mac
5 p.m. - Lutheran vs. Athens
7 p.m. - North Mac vs. Hillsboro
August 31 at Carlinville
5 p.m. - Staunton vs. Lincolnwood
7 p.m. - Carlinville vs. Litchfield
Games will be held to determine 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th, at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at both North Mac and Carlinville. Locations will be determined after match-ups are set.