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O’Fallon Christian breaks sectional barrier, faces St. Charles West for Class 2 state berth

O’Fallon Christian soccer coach Luke Tanner talks with his players during the Eagles’ practice on Oct. 31 at O’Fallon Christian High. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

Two simple reminders from O’Fallon Christian soccer coach Luke Tanner have guided his players well throughout the 2018 season: Go out and play with a smile on their faces, and enjoy the moment.

The Eagles have done a lot of both in the postseason.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, they enjoyed another “moment,” thanks to a 6-4 Class 2 sectional victory at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri.

It was the first sectional win in program history and with it the Eagles gained a quarterfinal date with St. Charles West, scheduled for this weekend [Saturday, Nov. 3].

“We had played them the last two years and we had beat them both times,” senior forward Luke McNeil. “We have a lot less talented team this year but we have a team that gives a lot of heart, so we knew that it was going to come down to how much we tried and, like our coach said, ‘It’s simple, just score more goals than they do.’”

Scoring more goals was definitely big as O’Fallon Christian [14-10] came out rolling in the first 40 minutes, scoring three goals and jumping to a 3-1 lead at the end of the first half.

Getting the two-goal lead in the first half gave the Eagles an edge.

“Missouri Military’s forward line was really gifted and we knew they would score,” O’Fallon Christian coach Luke Tanner said. “We went into halftime two goals up and that was a great lead and we knew they would come out ready to fight.”

Missouri Military did take the action to the Eagles in the second half, but Eagles senior keeper Daniel Heinrich held strong in the final 40 minutes.

Heinrich turned away 22 shots to deliver the victory.

“Daniel was really the big star for us,” Tanner said. “He made some big, big saves and really kept us in the game.”

Sophomore forward Chase Heath led the Eagles with a hat trick and the game-winning goal.

Leading scorer, senior forward Luke McNeil scored two goals, and Austin McNeil scored a goal and had two assists.

O’Fallon Christian [14-10] has won six straight games since losing on Oct. 5.

They are feeling loose, playing free and enjoying their postseason run.

“If you had asked me earlier in the season, I would have said not a chance. But as the season went on, we began to jell a bit more and get a bit more confident,” Heinrich said. “Now that we work 100-percent together, I think there’s nothing that can’t be done.”

On Saturday, Nov. 3, at 4 p.m., the Eagles will host St. Charles West [23-1] with a chance to go to the Class 2 state tournament just like the girls team did in May.

“It means a lot for us with soccer not really having a big name around here and how great we’re doing now,” Heinrich said. “So, the girls won state in the spring and now, what if the boys could do it in the fall right after that?”

“They can taste it,” Tanner said. “We’re the underdogs, so we’ve just got to go there and play with no pressure and enjoy the moment.”

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