After a hard fought 2-1 overtime win against Grant Park in the Regional Semifinal, the Herscher boys soccer team entered the Regional Championship matchup on Saturday against a 21-4 Hoopeston squad. The Cornjerkers had shown strong scoring progress and a solid defensive line throughout their dominant season, until the Tigers took the field Saturday afternoon.
Despite an early but empty scoring chance for Hoopeston, the Tigers controlled the ball and the tempo from start to finish. Many opportunities presented themselves for the traveling Tigers, but for the first fifteen minutes the ball failed to find the back of the net. Then the Tigers put the Cornjerkers on their heels. Off a Hoopeston keeper punt, junior Logan Lunsford chested the ball off the bounce and hit a volley from the edge of the center circle just beyond half. The keeper backpedaled to his own six-yard box, but had to watch the ball sail over his head and across the goal line. The Tigers’ bench, sideline, and fanbase erupted as the Tigers went up 1-0.
Soon after the half-field theatrics, the Hoopeston goalie made another mistake. He ran to the edge of the box to pick up a rolling ball, but ended up sliding out of the eighteen resulting in a Tiger free kick just on the edge of the area. Junior Bascom Jackson stood over the ball for the Tigers before he found fellow junior Jace Martin for the Tigers’ second goal of the half.
The scoring stopped there for the rest of the first half, and the Tigers went to the corner with a confident 2-0 lead. Head Coach Alan High said, “As a team we discussed how important the first 10 minutes of the second half would be, and the team came out and executed flawlessly.” The young Tiger squad proved High’s point one-hundred percent.
The Tigers took the second half kick-off and continued to carry the same swagger and intensity they left the first half with. Soon, the Tigers again found the back of the net as junior Bascom Jackson was fouled inside the penalty area, drawing a Hoopeston red card, and buried a penalty into the bottom corner of the net. Not ten minutes later, chaos ensued. Following a yellow-card foul against the Cornjerkers, mouths began to run. Play was halted for a lengthy amount of time, and in the end, Hoopeston walked away with two reds accompanied by four yellows. This series of events left the Tigers’ opposition down to nine versus eleven in terms of men on the field, and down 3-0 on the scoreboard.
The Tigers quickly capitalized, netting three more goals to move up to 6-0 before the half was over. This clearly dominant win gave the Tigers their seventh straight Regional Championship. The seniors of the group suited up for four straight regionals, and did not lose once in eight regional matchups. The Tigers will now look ahead to their next potential victim. They have the opportunity every Herscher returner has waited for. The chance to end the season of the team who beat them a year ago in the Sectional Championship.