Alton's C.J. Nasello controls the ball at midfield Wednesday vs. Quincy in the Edwardsville Regional.
Carl Stradal of the Redbirds battles with a couple of Quincy players Wednesday in Edwardsville.
Alton's Kain Henson jockeys for control with a Blue Devils' player Wednesday at the District 7 Sports Complex in Edwardsville.
EDWARDSVILLE — Quincy head boys' soccer coach Matt Longo knew the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional was going to be a grinder with some tight contests.
Fortunately for the Blue Devils they survived their first test. Unfortunately for the Alton Redbirds they did not.
Quincy edged out the Redbirds 1-0 in two overtime periods to earn a date with the defending Class 3A state champs and regional host Edwardsville Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday at the District 7 Sports Complex in the title tilt. The Tigers bested Granite City 4-0 in the early game Wednesday.
With the win, Quincy improved to 13-7-1, while the loss sees AHS end its campaign at 11-7-3.
"We worked all year with our schedule to get ready for what I think is one of the most even regionals in the state of Illinois," Longo said. "I thought all four of these teams had a possibility of winning and it's tough to see Granite City go down and Alton go down because they're good teams, but I'm happy we're going on. We'll be here Saturday to play Edwardsville."
After a sluggish start, Alton head coach Jay Robertson thought his team compiled a better effort after the break, but it just wasn't enough.
"At halftime we talked to the boys and I thought they answered the bell in the second half and played really well," Robertson said. "Obviously we would have liked to get the goal that got called back, but that's unfortunate there. But I thought they played their heart out in the second half especially. They came out and didn't worry about that."
The phantom goal for the Redbirds came in the 76th minute when Carl Stradal buried a ball into the back of the net, but as Alton began to celebrate, the referee called a foul on Eric Ferenbach for making contact with Quincy goalie Tyler Gerst, nullifying the goal.
"Obviously we'd love to get that goal and we felt that was a good goal, but sometimes it doesn't go your way with that," Robertson said.
Quincy had some close calls waved off, too. In the 26th minute, Hunter Hoschar of the Blue Devils launched a shot from 30 yards out that clanged off the crossbar. Walker Todd grabbed the rebound and booted it into the net, but as the brouhaha began for Quincy, Todd was called offsides, waving off the score.
It was senior midfielder Devin Watson of the Blue Devils who finally made one stick. Watson found himself in front of the net in the 87th minute on a throw-in and drilled a header past Alton goalie Shane Bollini. It proved to be enough to hold up for the win as Quincy held on through the rest of the first overtime and all of the second.
"That was a well setup play and a perfect spot to throw it in," Robertson said. "They got it to a great spot and it was well played."
It seemed to spark the Birds, who played with a much bigger sense of urgency the rest of the way. Alton put together some good chances in the second OT, including a free kick by Stradal which was blistered on goal but caught by Gerst.
It didn't surprise Longo that AHS picked up the intensity after the goal.
"You get that goal and it seems like everybody lets their guard down a little bit and you find yourself back pedaling," Longo said. "We told them in between the overtimes we're not going to back off. We've got the advantage going at them and if we back off a little bit they're going to be right down there and Tyler Gerst made a great play on a ball that came through and he got his hands out there."
Quincy outshot Alton 9-5 in the game and led 6-3 on corners.
Robertson knew the regional was going to be rugged and in the end he wasn't disappointed in his squad. Alton says goodbye to 14 seniors now, as Bollini, Stradal, Bradley Leonard, Gabriel Grassle, Micah Wrigley, John Carrow, Drew Hays, Aaron Russell, Brett Baldridge, Alex Piazza, Joseph Twichell, Kain Henson, Jonathan Klunk and Daniel Martinez leave the program.
"You know that going into the year," Robertson said of the quality of the regional. "You know the four teams and you know you're going to have to beat a couple of tough teams to get out of this regional and it very well could be that whoever gets out of here is going to make a pretty nice run, a pretty deep run in the playoffs. It's a dogfight to get out of here, that's for sure."