Boys Soccer: Warriors early goal enough to win share of CLC title on emotional night
The Brainerd Warriors rode the emotions of senior night and avenged their loss in September to beat St. Cloud Tech 1-0 Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Don Adamson Field.
Senior night was coupled with parents night and Smiles for Jake where the boys soccer team honored former teammate Jake Haapajoki, who took his life two years ago, and would have been a senior this year. Haapajoki’s number 10 was retired before the game.
“Everything about tonight, senior night, parents night, the tribute to Jake all helped,” Warrior coach Tom Grausam said. “And the conference title is on the line so that put some extra motivation in the boys.”
The Warriors used the emotional pregame festivities and jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at the 31:24 mark of the first half.
Junior forward Isaiah Peterson checked into the game and his first touch deflected the ball to senior Isaac Foster who, on senior night, scored the lone Warriors’ goal.
“We got our early goal and kept it,” Grausam said. “I told them at half -- a one goal lead is hard to keep the rest of the game, so that was good.
“(The goal) set the tone early and I think it relaxed us knowing that we could score. Early in the season we weren’t able to put the ball in the net, so this time it was good to see that.”
St. Cloud Tech applied pressure on the Warriors and created multiple chances to get the equalizer.
Senior goalie Jude Hitlner saved the game from being a Warriors loss rather than a win. He made a stop on a breakaway attempt by a Tigers forward with 22 minutes left in the second half.
“He was on his ‘A’ game tonight,” Grausam said of Hitlner. “He’s a brick wall. Nothing really gets by him. Tonight he was focused. We could tell that during practice shooting that he was focused and tuned in.”
Hitlner continued to guard the net as a corner kick resulted in a header at the far post which Hitlner also saved from going to the back of the net.
“I was just trying to stay calm,” Hitlner said of his play. “In a game like this, it is really easy to get out of focus and loss control, but I think it’s important to keep your composure and that’s what helped us win tonight.”
Every last second of composure was needed as the Tigers lined up for a free kick with 11 second left. The ball bounced around in Hiltner’s goalie box and hit the crossbar as the horn sounded and ended the game 1-0.
“We have a great group of four,” Hitlner said of the play of the defense in front of him. “They are so good together and so far this season we have really worked well together. We talk well and I communicate well with them to help lock down the defense.”
For the Warriors, the win over St. Cloud Tech guarantees at least a share of the Central Lakes Conference title. The Tigers still play two more conference games and have to win both to tie the Warriors who have 14 conference points.
The Warriors, however, are more focused on a section run. They have one last game in the regular season against Section 8-2A opponent St. Michael Albertville Thursday, Oct. 3. A Warriors win could hand them the No. 1 seed in the section playoffs which starts Thursday, Oct. 10.
“It would be a big advantage for us to be playing at home for the three games before state,” Grausam said of hopefully getting the No. 1 seed in section.
St. Cloud Tech 0 0 -- 0
Brainerd 1 0 -- 0
First half: Isaac Foster (Isaiah Peterson) 31:24
Shots on goal: Brd 5, SCT 3
Goalkeepers: Brd-Jude Hiltner (3 saves); SCT-Christian Lee (4 saves)
Warriors 1, St. Cloud Tech 0
Key: Warriors ride momentum of early goal and Hitlner makes clutch saves for the 1-0 win.
Conference: Brd 8-1-1, SCT 7-1-1
Overall: Brd 9-1-2, SCT 10-2-1
Next: at St. Michael-Albertville 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3