COAL CITY — The Peotone boys soccer team scored early and often on Saturday morning to claim the Class 1A Coal City Regional championship with a 4-1 win over the host Coalers.
The Blue Devils improved to 13-8 on the season with the win, while the Coalers ended the season with an 8-11-3 record.
It only took two and half minutes for the Blue Devils to find the back of the net, which allowed them to play with the lead almost the entire game. German Lopez broke down a few Coaler defenders before taking a shot from the left side of the net and Bart Budz crashed the net on the right side to bury Lopez’s miss to put his team up 1-0.
Peotone coach Justin Meyers said getting a goal in the game’s first few minutes prevented his kids from playing tight.
“It kind of takes the pressure off a little bit,” Meyers said. “It let us settle in and stopped us from pressing too much. Sometimes if we’re not scoring, we have the tendency to just try to kick the ball through the goal, so getting that early goal was absolutely huge for us. And it made Coal City chase us on the scoreboard. ”
Nick Petrocelli added another goal 13 minutes into the first half to give Peotone a quick 2-0 lead.
The Coalers didn’t show any quit, however, as Keegan Johnson netted a goal a little over 20 minutes in to make the score 2-1. But that’s as close as Coal City would get for the remainder of the game.
“Our kids played really hard, and that’s always something we always ask of them,” said Coalers coach Stephen McCleary. “But Peotone has an excellent team and an explosive offense. They execute really well.”
The rest of the first half would remain scoreless until captain Nate Rivera scored two minutes into the second half to push the lead to 3-1.
“I body faked, then scissored and got around my defender and then took a lefty shot,” Rivera said. “I’m pretty good with my left, so I just took the shot.”
Lopez added the game’s final goal 15 minutes into the second half to ice the Blue Devils’ 4-1 win.
“We had a really nice passing sequence going on,” Lopez said. “I called for the ball and got a touch and just ripped it bottom corner. I think that goal sealed the game for us. I’m proud of that one.”
Meyers said his team is excited to be back in sectionals, where his team lost in the championship game last year. He also noted they might be better equipped this season for a deep postseason run.
“It was definitely a different road to get here this season,” he said. “We scored in bunches last year. This season we have played in a lot more narrow, hard-fought games. But I think that will help us down the stretch.
“The tough, tightly-contested games are the ones you’re gonna be in during the playoffs,” he added. “I’m really happy where we are at right now and I look forward to playing a great team in sectionals.”
For Coal City, McCleary said he’s thankful for the work his seven seniors have contributed to the program.
“We have seven seniors, and all of them are great kids,” McCleary said. “They have worked their butts off, and I couldn’t have asked for more of them. I can’t say one bad thing about this group of kids. They were fun to coach and showed a ton of improvement throughout the year.”
The Blue Devils advance to take on another Illinois Central Eight Conference rival, Herscher, in the Reed-Custer Sectional semifinals at Reed-Custer on Tuesday at 4 p.m.