A definite St. Charles County presence will be visible on the field, and in the stands when the Class 3 and Class 4 state soccer tournament commences this weekend at Soccer Park in Fenton.
Fort Zumwalt South, thanks to a riveting 2-1 double overtime victory over Ladue in a Class 3 quarterfinal will look for a state title berth in a semifinal matchup against Summit on Friday at 6 p.m.
Zumwalt South (21-5-1) will be making its second final four appearance in three years and the Bulldogs are definitely glad to be back in that position.
“It’s an amazing feeling, It really is,” said Fort Zumwalt South coach Jim Layne. “We knew that we were going to be a good squad because we had some the kids from 2014 back whose roles were a little bit different but they saw that experience and I think the experience of falling just short against St. Dominic in sectionals last year prepared us for this year.”
Along with the Bulldogs, fellow Gateway Athletic Conference member Francis Howell North, from the GAC South division will also be looking for state championship glory, as the Knights take on long-time soccer power Christian Brothers College in a Class 4 semifinal Friday at 2 p.m.
Howell North (18-5) is making its first trip to the state tournament since 2004 and fifth in program history.
“Our conference is a very good conference and we all play a very tough schedule and the games are so competitive,” Knights coach Scheller said. “It was exciting and I thought we played a real good game.”
The Bulldogs claimed their spot in the tournament thanks to the overtime heroics of super sub sophomore forward Braden Johnson. Johnson scored a goal off a header in the second overtime just under two minutes in to lift Zumwalt South over a strong Rams squad that had lost just one game all season.
“It was sort of a long throw-in and I was just siting at the top of (goal) box and my teammate Matt Rush put a cross on it and I just ran in, got in front of the keeper and got my head on it, hit the crossbar, went down and bounced out,” Johnson. “They let it clear for a minute and they (refs) talked on the sideline for a minute and ruled it a goal. It was a great feeling.”
“Braden was on the end of that one and he was on the end of one that didn’t go in earlier (in the game),” Layne said. “He’s been a huge boost for us off the bench and he just brings an energy that is unreal.”
It was an even more nerve wracking finish for Howell North as the host Knights had to battle through regulation and two 15-minute overtimes before Hassan Hamdan’s penalty kick delivered an emotional 2-1 win over Eureka in a Class 4 quarterfinal last Saturday.
Hamdan, normally kicking in the second spot in the rotation asked to move to the fifth spot, according to Scheller.
“I had Hassan penciled in as a two or four spot but when he came over he was like give me the five spot,” Scheller said. “He wanted the pressure and he got it and it came down to him putting the game-winner in so that was pretty exciting.”
Howell North fell to CBC 2-1 on Oct. 13 in a well-played defensive contest.
Zumwalt South dropped a 4-1 decision to Summit on Sept. 15. Both teams will be looking for better results on Friday with the hope of bringing home some championship hardware for St. Charles County.
“It’s pretty special, it really is” Layne said of the teams getting into the state semifinals. “When we were there in 2014, a lot of coaches were saying cherish the moment and have your boys cherish the moment, because you don’t know when your going to get back.”