BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — GILMAN — A record-setting season came to a screeching halt for the Hoopeston Area soccer program.
Herscher senior Zach Simmons scored the game-winning goal in the Tigers 2-1 victory over the Cornjerkers with just 00.7 seconds left in the IHSA Class 1A sectional championship at Iroquois West High School.
“Although that will be the play that will be remembered, we didn’t lose it in that split second,’’ Hoopeston Area coach John Klaber said. “We didn’t come out like I wanted. We were flat and we didn’t play like we did on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals.’’
The game-winning goal for Herscher came on a corner kick in the final 10 seconds from senior Trenton Cruse, who had attempted a corner kick all year.
“There is really nothing that you can do in that situation,’’ said Hoopeston Area senior Brennan Crose. “They got a lucky roll on the ball. It was just a scramble in the box and that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Crose echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying that play didn’t decide the match.
“Our goalie (Trey Layden) said he was sorry, but it’s not his fault at all,’’ Crose said. “He played a heck of a game. We had multiple opportunities to score. I had two that I didn’t finish. It doesn’t come down to that play if we we would have finished earlier in the match.
“It was a great game. We just didn’t finish enough and they did.’’
The only goal for the Cornjerkers, who finish their season at 18-5, came from Crose in the final seconds of the first half.
Herscher’s Jaeger Erickson failed to clear the ball out of his penalty box and his header attempt went right to Crose, who buried his shot into the right-side of the goal.
“I knew I was in the center of the goal,’’ Crose said. “I had my mind made up to go right. I didn’t even know where the keeper was, so I was blessed to finish it.’’
Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Herscher (21-4-1) turned up its offensive pressure in the second half. The Tigers tied the contest with a goal on a penalty kick from Nick Wheeler in the 59th minute. That was one of many shots on goal in the second half for Herscher.
“Herscher is a big, physical team and I think they got a few more breaks on the whistle,’’ Klaber said. “But even that didn’t cost us in this game. We just didn’t capitalize on the chances that we had.
“If you look at our losses this season, they came when we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. It’s unfortunate that they got the two goals the way they did with a PK and scoring at the end. But I told our team before the game, that one goal wasn’t going to win today.’’
While Herscher advances to Tuesday’s super-sectional game at Urbana, the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers cap their season with a regional title and a share of the Vermilion Valley Conference championship along with the Salt Fork/Westville Storm Tigers.
“It was a great season and a great way to cap my senior year,’’ Crose said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys or a better coaching staff. Our community was behind us all of the way.’’
Klaber points outs that his seven seniors (Crose, Levi Stebbins, Cassidy Dixon, David Cornelius, Elijah Yates, Mason Jett and Trey Anderson) raised the bar with the school-record 18 wins to go along with a regional title and a conference title.
“Hopefully, our non-seniors got a taste for this,’’ he said. “And, I hope there is a little pit in their stomachs that will drive them to get us back here in this position.’’