A rambunctious, overflow crowd of approximately 600 showed up for a much anticipated Division I district semifinal soccer matchup between City League rivals St. Francis de Sales and St. John's Jesuit last night at Southview.
The Knights and Titans didn't bore the huge turnout as the outcome remained in question until the final seconds before it was clear St. John's would hang on for a 2-1 upset victory over the No. 1 seeded Knights to earn a spot in the district final.
St. John's will face Northview, which knocked off Anthony Wayne 3-1 earlier in the evening in a confrontation between Northern Lakes League rivals. The district final is scheduled for Saturday at 4 at Southview.
"The guys played great," St. John's coach Dan Weisenburger said. "It was a tough battle. St. Francis is a fantastic team. They're the No. 1 seed for a reason. We just happened to play a little harder tonight."
The Titans (10-9), who fell to the Knights (12-2-1) during a regular season, produced all of the scoring in the game before the break.
Freshman Adam Montague, who was suspended for the regular-season meeting with St. Francis, gave the Titans a 1-0 lead before Patrick Pickering came through with another goal. Pickering, a senior, was actually responsible for the Knights' only goal when a loose ball bounced off him and rolled into the Titans' goal with just under five minutes left in the first half.
"This is good," Montague said. "They're a great team. We came away with the win but it could have gone either way."
Both teams went scoreless in the second half even though the Knights applied continual pressure on St. John's goalie Mick Wasielewski, especially down the stretch. He held up to the pressure, recording an impressive 11 saves.
Wasielewski, who started the year playing on the junior varsity, considered the Knights' late push as motivation to come through in the clutch.
"The shots were not far in-between but I'd rather have the bombarding shots coming to be on my toes," Wasielewski said.
Despite the disappointing defeat, St. Francis coach Lee Aliakbar credited his team with putting together a successful season.
"I think the boys did extremely well this year," Aliakbar said. "They have exceeded my expectations. They have gone beyond my expectations and that's a credit to them."
Northview, which has a victory over St. John's this season, took care of business against Anthony Wayne in the first semifinal.
Kyle Scharfenberg scored two goals as Northview beat Anthony Wayne for the second time this season. Jordan Keefe produced the other goal for the 17-3 Wildcats.
Despite coming out on top, Northview coach Ryan Creech walked away from the win not completely satisfied.
"Winning ugly is still winning and we did it today," Creech said. "I think sometimes that's a sign of a good team when they can pull it together when they're not playing well."
The Wildcats capitalized on the Generals (13-5-1) playing the final 61 minutes short one player after Jordan Flowers received a red card for using profanity during the 19th minute.
"When they lost Flowers the game had to change," Scharfenberg said. "We knew we had it from there. We knew we had them right where we wanted them.
"That's a big loss. He's a good player."
AW coach Tom Shook admits losing one of his top players altered the game plan.
"He's a good senior leader and he just was a kid for a second," Shook said. "You hate to see that from a young man like that because he's a class kid. He just wants to win so bad, and I feel bad for him.
"That made us change things around and we could only have one forward on top attacking, which allowed them to really move some guys up and attack hard on us.
"They're a quality team. Take nothing away from Northview. They've got some great players and Ryan is a great coach. We wish them all the best."
Scharfenberg gave Northview the lead when he scored from close range during the 31st minute. Keefe made it 2-0 when he scored 25 minutes into the second half. Just over seven minutes elapsed before Sharfenberg scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season to give Northview a 3-0 advantage.
AW's Nike Mangotic scored with 10 seconds remaining in the match to avoid a shutout. The last-second goal allowed was one of the reasons Northview's coach left the field not completely pleased.
"I wish we wouldn't have given up a goal in the last 10 seconds," Creech said. "I thought that was very poor and that's something we're going to have to rectify."
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