GRANITE CITY — A strong first half helped pace the Collinsville Kahoks in Tuesday night’s victory over the Alton Redbirds in the semifinal round of the Class 3A Granite City Regional.
The Kahoks scored two goals in the first half in the 4-1 victory. Four different Collinsville players netted goals in the triumph. The Redbirds finish the season with a 14-6-2 mark. CHS improved to 10-7-2 overall with the win. The Kahoks will take on Edwardsville at 5 p.m. on Friday in Granite City for the regional championship. The Tigers dismissed the host Warriors 5-0 in the first semifinal game on Tuesday.
Alton and Collinsville squared off in a Southwestern Conference contest — both team’s last regular season outing — on Oct. 13 and Collinsville won that one 4-0 on its field. The two squads had a quick turnaround meeting again on Tuesday and Collinsville took little time taking control.
Junior forward Hunter Counton scored in the 28th minute of play to give the Kahoks a 1-0 advantage. Sophomore forward Zane Baker netted the second goal just 59 seconds before the conclusion of the first half. Baker fired off his shot just a few feet from the goal, as Collinsville led 2-0 at halftime.
“We got caught ball watching on the second goal,” first-year Alton head coach Nick Funk said. “It kills your sprit when you’re all looking around and see one just go in the back of the net. We gave up at 57 seconds or something like that, it’s just mental errors.”
The Redbirds finally got on the board against the Kahoks in the second half at the 47:52 mark when senior C.J. Nasello scored on a free kick.
“C.J. hit a great shot,” Funk said. “To beat (Brett) Niedzwiecki (Collinsville goalie) from that far away, that’s not an easy task. It’s a good thing for C.J. to hit it like that, I’m proud of him. We had to come out and run a totally different formation due to injuries, but they took it to us twice. There’s nothing to say about injuries, you just have to step up and overcome. It is what it is.”
Collinsville coach Clay Smith also complimented Nasello.
“Nasello, that’s a great dead ball,” he said. “Brett (Niedzwiecki) an all-state keeper and he couldn’t get a hand on that.”
Alton didn’t play with some of its more experienced players on the squad as, senior Logan Clark wasn’t able to finish the game due to injury and Josh Lombardi, Jacob Lombardi and Steven Nguyen didn’t play due to injury.
“It’s hard to overcome something like that, especially if you have three seniors go down before playoffs,” Funk said. “A lot of them, they played hard. A few mental errors is what gave up goals. I think the first two were on dead balls. It’s just not paying attention to the game and the third one, it was a little lapse on the goalie.”
The Nasello goal didn't end up serving as a momentum turner for the Birds.
Senior forward Sabas Avalos scored Collinsville’s third goal at the 60:29 mark on a play where he was the only player up top. That put the Kahoks ahead 3-1.
“To get the third goal when you have just one attacking player, that’s as big as the second goal,” Smith said.
Senior midfielder Josh Wobbe netted Collinsville's fourth goal with 5:18 left to play in the game.
While Funk was disheartened with the loss, he couldn't dismiss what the Redbirds accomplished on the season, which included a championship in the Bob Guelker/CYC Tournament.
“It’s the third best record Alton has ever had,” Funk said. “It’s something to hang your head on and be proud off. They gave everything they had tonight.”