It took nearly the entire first half before Davenport Assumption scored in Wednesday’s Class 2A substate final.
But once Charlie Leinart scored in the 39th minute, the floodgates broke open for the Knights. They scored again before halftime, and then added three more goals in the second half to defeat visiting Burlington-Notre Dame 5-0 and punch their ticket to a second consecutive state tournament berth.
“We knew the goal was going to come,” Leinart said. “We were dominating the whole first half. We just had to get it in. Once we did, the momentum was on our side, and we just kept scoring goal after goal.”
Assumption (15-1), the defending Class 1A state champions, will open state tournament play on Tuesday at the Cownie Sport Complex in Des Moines.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” Assumption’s Sam Burkhart said. “We know what it takes this year. We’re just going to play our best and try to make it to the finals and win it again.”
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In his first season as the Knights’ head coach after longtime coach Greg Zeller retired last spring, Chad Hollmer will take Assumption back to the state tournament.
“It’s a tremendous honor to coach these guys, to be honest,” Hollmer said. “They know it’s their team. I’ve got full confidence in them to go out and do it. It’s an honor for our coaching staff to be with these guys. It’s fun.”
Assumption had beaten Burlington-Notre Dame 6-0 in the Knights’ season opener back on March 30, but Hollmer said that the Nikes (14-7) were a much improved club by the end of the season.
“They’re a completely different team. They’ve come a long way,” he said. “They’ve gotten much better. We knew it wasn’t going to be the same team. They played well. We pulled away, and our quality at the end kind of shone through.”
The Nikes held Assumption scoreless through 38 minutes until Roberto Medrano sent a ball forward to Leinart. The Knights added another goal when Sam McCarty scored with just 21 seconds left before halftime.
“It was nice to see us continually going and not just trying to get to half,” Hollmer said. “I’m proud of the boys for completing the whole 40 minutes of the first half, and I think it gave us great momentum going into the second half.”
Burkhart, who had just four goals this season coming into the substate final, scored a pair of goals in the second half. Evan Boldt knocked in a rebound in the 72nd minute to close out the scoring.
“It was just a matter of time before we got that first goal,” Burkhart said. “Once we got that first goal, we knew a couple more would come.”
Last season, Assumption entered the state tournament as the sixth seed. But the second-ranked Knights, who have won 24 of their last 25 matches dating back to last season, are not going to be flying under the radar next week.
“We’ll have a target on our backs this year, but we like the pressure,” Leinart said. “This was a goal all season to get to state. We got that goal down, and we’ve got another goal to win state. We just have to stay focused and take it one game at a time and do our thing.”