Boys soccer: St. Edward heads to Class 1A sectional title game
ROCKFORD -- With only one loss on the season, the St. Edward boys soccer team isn't accustomed to playing from behind.
However, the top-seeded Green Wave found themselves in unfamiliar territory just three minutes into Wednesday's Class 1A Rockford Christian sectional semifinal as Josh Dowling rose up and headed in a corner kick for the host Royal Lions.
After a shaky opening 10 minutes, the Wave regrouped and reeled off the next 4 goals -- including the first 3 from senior AJ Franklin -- on their way to collecting a satisfying 5-2 victory.
St. Edward (24-1) advanced to face Aurora Central Catholic in Saturday's sectional championship as the Chargers knocked off Stillman Valley 3-1 in the second semifinal.
"We've only trailed three times this season and never this quick," said St. Edward coach Tim Brieger. "Once we gave up the goal, we told the guys it's time to step up. Big-time players are supposed to rise up, defense settled down and we didn't make anymore mistakes."
"We just got together, picked ourselves up and we just played the way we're used to playing," added sophomore Josh Johansen, who chipped in with a goal and an assist on his birthday.
Going with the wind in the opening half, the Green Wave peppered standout junior keeper Jace Joiner early on. They finally found the equalizer in the 20th minute as Will Gaston found Franklin in space on the right side and Franklin whistled the ball into the back of the net.
From there, Joiner made a trio of impressive saves, but had no chance on a beautiful St. Edward goal that went from midfielder Chase Brieger to Johansen to Franklin on his left for the impressive finish with 7:35 left in the half.
"I always try to know when AJ is so I can get him the ball. He always finishes and I always pass the ball. That's just how we are," Johansen said.
"I told their keeper I hoped he video taped some of those saves and sends those in to somewhere because he was standing on his head in the first half making some amazing saves," credited Tim Brieger.
Franklin gave the Wave some breathing room in the 47th minute with a perfectly placed header on a cross from Jackson Godfrey. Godfrey extended the lead to 4-1 six minutes later after corralling a cross from Uriel Carachure, who beat a pair of defenders on a strong run down the right side.
"We came out slow, but it felt good to come back," Franklin said. "We kept the momentum up after I scored that first goal. We worked the ball well, played as a team and good things kept happening."
Rockford Christian (16-9-1) got a bit of life from Andrew's Volk's goal with 14:47 left to play, but Johansen, who was stopped on a one-on-one situation minutes earlier, buried a goal with 7:54 remaining.
"It was my birthday and I had to get one in today," Johansen said. "I was definitely frustrated on that one-on-one as I just took a bad touch, but I was glad Carson (Scarnegie) was able to get me the ball right there and I was able to finish it."
"When we had the wind at our back we were trying to play with the wind instead of playing soccer," Tim Brieger said. "In the second half we started connecting passes."