There is a line of dialogue from the 1976 Clint Eastwood western "The Outlaw Josey Wales" that describes how "a man with the sun at his back has an advantage."
Pioneers, Rams shut out in 1A regional soccer semis
In Thursday's first semifinal of the IHSA Class 1A Alleman boys' soccer regional, the Pioneers had that advantage, as Somonauk junior goalkeeper Coleton Eade and his teammates found themselves eye to eye with the bright sunshine in the western sky.
Unfortunately for Alleman, it could not capitalize on that advantage as several first-half shots were off-line. Subsequently, the second-seeded Bobcats were able to take control in the second half and roll to a 5-0 win at Greg McKenzie Field in Moline.
While Somonauk (18-2) advances to Friday's 6 p.m. title match against Little Ten Conference rival Earlville, a 3-0 winner over Riverdale in Thursday's nightcap, the eighth-seeded Pioneers end Tavo Garcia's first year as head coach at 5-11-1.
"I thought we'd have the home-field advantage, and our crowd was great, but we were unlucky and couldn't get a spark going," said Garcia. "This loss stings, but it doesn't take away from a positive season with five wins and a postseason win."
That aforementioned postseason win — a 4-3 overtime victory over Kewanee in last Saturday's regional opener — together with playing at home had Alleman with some momentum coming into Tuesday's semifinal round.
However, that momentum took a quick hit when a shot by Somonauk sophomore midfielder Lance Grandgeorge deflected off the hands of Pioneer freshman goakeeper Julian Villalobos and into the net, putting the Bobcats on the board just 40 seconds in.
"That gave us a lot of momentum right off the bat," said Grandgeorge, who also tallied an assist, "and the confidence to move forward for the rest of the game."
But with Villalobos (seven saves) and the Alleman defenders holding firm after that early tally, it remained a 1-0 game until deep into the first half, during which time the Pioneers tried their best to break through against Eade (eight saves).
"That was our goal, to try to attack and use the sun to our advantage," said Garcia. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get any quality shots. We did well to get some shots off, just not on target.
"Overall, we played pretty decent after that first goal. Our defense tightened up, and we got more pressure on them, but we couldn't get any quality shots."
Instead, the Bobcats got the first of two goals from senior forward Parker Wasson with 3:32 left before halftime to take a two-goal lead.
Wasson then scored nearly 10 minutes into the second half to make it a 3-0 game, and fellow senior forward Carter Andrews tacked on two goals of his own, with Wasson assisting on the second.
"We took advantage of our chances and put them in," Wasson said. "(His first goal just before halftime) helped us realize that we could outscore them."
Earlville 3, Riverdale 0: Like Alleman, 10th-seeded Riverdale had a regional win under its belt, a 3-2 road victory at Princeton last Friday night.
Against the third-seeded Red Raiders (14-5), the Rams fell behind early when Earlville's Trenton Fruit scored the first of his two goals nearly eight minutes in.
But with 25:15 left in the first half, Riverdale senior Zach Duke sent a crossing shot that looked primed for the upper net. The shot got behind Earlville goalkeeper Garett Cook but hit the upper crossbar and bounded away.
"That would've changed everything," Riverdale coach Gerald King said emphatically. "We had a lot of chances, but some days you get a diamond, other days a stone. Some days that ball goes in, some days it doesn't."
Down 1-0 at halftime, the Rams (7-9-3) kept trying to put the pressure on the Red Raiders, but a Diego Vazquez tally just over 17 minutes into the second half put Earlville up by two and put the heat on Riverdale.
Riverdale keeper Patrick Gannon (nine saves) did his best to keep his club in contention, but the Rams were unable to get one past Cook (four saves), and Fruit's second goal clinched it with 14.8 seconds remaining.
"We had a good game with Princeton, an awesome game, and coming in seeded 10th and them third, we came in swinging for the fences," said King. "We tried to do all we can do. We definitely played well, and I'm proud of these guys."