It was not to be for the two clubs as they were defeated in semifinal round play, but the two teams did come away from their appearances with a couple of valuable gifts.
Pride and appreciation of accomplishment.
Zumwalt South went 1-1 in the Class 3 tournament, falling to Class 3 champ Summit 2-1 in the semifinal last Friday and then on Saturday defeated Grain Valley 2-1 to win the third place game.
“I told them that when they look back in about 10 years, they are going to look back at the game they won in the state tournament and not necessarily the game that they lost,” Zumwalt South coach Jim Layne said. “I told them that when they come to school and came back with their kids and walk in the gymnasium and see a banner hanging in the rafters, that they will be going to tell their kids about the season they had and about winning third place.”
Francis Howell North ended up with a similar experience in the Class 4 tournament as the Knights lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in last Friday’s semifinal to eventual champion Christian Brothers College.
“I thought we played a really good game (against CBC),” Howell North coach Larry Scheller said. “We came out a little nervous and after our nerves settled down, we played a really good game in losing to the eventual state champions.”
The Knights responded with a strong effort in the semifinal and battled Columbia Rock Bridge to a 1-1 tie in the third place game on Saturday.
Howell North, which finished 18-6-1, got an early second half goal from Husan Hamdan against Rock Bridge for a 1-0 lead but Rock Bridge got the equalizer with just over five minutes to play to spoil the Knights bid for an outright third place trophy.
“We thought we were gonna get away with a win but they stuck one in the back of the net,” Scheller said. “It was disappointing but at the same time, we played pretty darn well and there’s nothing to be ashamed about with that ending.”
After falling to Summit in double overtime in the semifinals, the Bulldogs got to hold the third place trophy thanks to goals from senior Matt Rush and junior Jacob Booker. Booker scored the game winning goal at 52 minutes, 51 seconds on a header off a superb pass from Braden Johnson to make sure Zumwalt North would not go home empty-handed.
“I knew I had to get to the back post to put it in so I hustled up on a pretty hard pass and headed it in,” Booker said. “It felt good being able to capitalize on my opportunity and not miss that one. It felt great to at least come out with one win this time because two years ago we tied to get third place and this year we won it outright, so that felt good.”
Zumwalt South turned in a 22-6-1 season and although the Bulldogs didn’t get the big prize, there is a strong sense of pride and appreciation for what the program was able to accomplish and represent St. Charles County well in the 2016 season.
“Oh yes,” Layne said. “Our conference, the GAC as a whole over the past four or five years really been a hotbed for soccer and you go back and look at Timberland, they make their run in 2013, we were there in 2014 along with Francis Howell Central, last year in 2015 it was Francis Howell, this year it’s Francis Howell North and it’s us again.”
“The GAC is becoming a soccer-rich area within St. Louis.”
Scheller echoed those sentiments. “I think you can put our whole conference in there,” Scheller said. “Especially from the GAC South, it’s been four years in a row that somebody from the GAC South has made the tournament. There is a lot of good soccer in St. Charles County. That’s for sure.”