ROCKFORD -- The St. Edward boys soccer team had come too far to roll over against Genoa-Kingston in Tuesday's Class 1A sectional semifinal.
Though the Cogs stunned the Green Wave with 4 straight first-half goals, gritty St. Edward gained some momentum from senior Johnny Shepherd's marker just 2:55 before intermission. Then came coach Tim Brieger's halftime speech.
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"Guys, just give me 40 minutes, everything you have for 40 minutes," Brieger told his players. "Look me in the eye after the game and say 'Coach, I've got nothing left.' "
Energized St. Edward seized the aggressor's role and electrified its fans just 72 seconds into the second half. Sophomore Joe French made a deep run up the left side, deked a defender along the goal line and sent a cross to Carlos Moreno for a tap-in that trimmed the deficit to 4-2.
The teams played evenly and spirited for the next 24 minutes. However, with under 15 minutes to play the Cogs notched the first of 3 goals in a five-minute span to pull away for a 7-2 victory.
The win advanced Genoa-Kingston (15-6-1) to Friday's final against sectional host Keith Country Day, which defeated Stillman Valley 4-0 in the second semifinal at Wedgbury Sports Complex.
The loss ended the season for the second St. Edward boys soccer team ever to win a regional title. The Green Wave finished 10-13.
"We felt pumped, like we could come back, give our best and win the game," Moreno said of the emotion that swept through the St. Edward side after its second goal. "We were giving it all from the beginning and no matter what we were not going to stop."
The problem was talented Genoa-Kingston, which built its first-half lead on the strength of goals by Cristian Camargo, Eric Tomlinson and a pair from forward Devon Tijerina.
"We've been down before," Green Wave four-year starter Nick Semler said. "To me and some of the other seniors like Johnny Shepherd it's nothing."
Shepherd sparked St. Edward's resurgence. When a G-K defender whiffed on a clearing attempt near at the top of the penalty area, Shepherd pounced on the loose ball.
"I took it, beat the one guy, and the goalie dove to the left so I just put in the right corner," Shepherd said.
Though the Wave surged within 4-2 on Moreno's goal, the direct result of French's superior individual effort, the Cogs had too much firepower to be held down. Freshman Juan Lechuga scored twice on set plays and Tommy Hansen added the final dagger with 10:52 to play.
"They caught us off guard I think there at the beginning of the second half," Genoa-Kingston coach Randy Tate said. "They made me a little bit nervous. But we responded once we got back organized, applied the pressure, and from there I think we pretty much controlled it."
"I don't think anybody had an off game today," Brieger said. "The heart showed. I'm so proud of these kids, of these seniors. They believed in (the coaching staff) and they turned into outstanding players and outstanding young men."