Ryan Ghere is probably right.
The Mattoon soccer coach thinks most people looking at the score of Friday night’s IHSA Class 2A regional soccer final will believe Mattoon got blown out.
That mindset happens when people see that a team has lost 6-0.
(You’re likely thinking that right now.)
Sure, Chatham dominated most stats, such as shots (15-6), shots on goal (8-4) and corner kicks (4-2). Plus, the Titans held possession of the ball for about 44 minutes, eight more than the Green Wave.
But Mattoon did not relent during a scoreless first half in which the Green Wave players doggedly marked up, ran hard and played tenacious defense, foiling multiple Chatham runs by quickly converging on the ball.
Chatham, which likes to bring the ball down the center of the field, appeared frustrated near the end of the first half, impatiently taking a few long-range shots on goal – one from about 25 yards out that went wide right with 19 minutes left in the first half and another shot taken from outside the 18-yard line by Cayden Sporrer that slammed into the cross bar with a minute left in the half.
Mattoon, meanwhile, could not convert several scoring opportunities into goals. With about 14 minutes left in the first half, Shane Ghere fired a direct kick from just outside the penalty box that was caught by Chatham’s goalkeeper. The Green Wave then arched another free kick from just inside the midfield line toward the goal that was again caught before players near the net could pounce on it. And Mason Wright lofted a free kick into a scrum of players in front of the goal with 4 minutes remaining, but a Chatham defender knocked the loose ball out of the goal box.
“It was hard to get in the flow in the first half,” Chatham coach Tommy Johnson said. “There were a lot of fouls on each team. And you have to give Mattoon some credit. They came at us. They’re a very strong team, a very physical team. But in that second half, we finished our chances out of the gate and just came on.”
Mattoon constantly kept several defenders behind the ball, Johnson said. So it was hard for his players to penetrate.
The game remained tight nearly a third of the way into the second half. About 13 minutes in, officials at the press table even started looking up the format to determine how to break a score tied after regulation for the state playoffs.
A minute later, that research proved unnecessary.
Chatham senior Griffin Harms took a pass on the far post off a corner kick and headed the ball into the net to make it 1-0. Less than a minute later, Cayden Sporrer scored on a through ball from Connor Dees that made it 2-0, which shifted the game dramatically.
“Scoring two goals in a minute is hard to rebound from,” Johnson said. “That was the big part of it. We just weathered the storm in the first half. Our guys are pretty resilient and they found a way to put the game away.”
Chatham scored four more times – off a rebound near the goal that was poked in, on a shot from the near post, on a perfectly timed header off a long pass from the right side and on a ball that floated far and high, just past the outstretched arms of Mattoon’s goalie.
“It all comes down to that first goal,” Ghere said. “We said the longer the game goes tied and the longer it’s close, the more pressure that’s on them because they’re the higher seed. And you could see when they scored that first goal that they just relaxed. And then they played the style of soccer they wanted to play. I thought we had them out of their game in the first half. But once they got the one, it just kinda snowballed.”
Chatham advances to play in the sectionals against the winner of today’s regional final in Marion between Carbondale and Waterloo, a match set for Wednesday in Bethalto.
Mattoon finishes at 14-4-4, the culmination of a successful four-year stretch by seniors who, Ghere says, recorded 75 victories in addition to winning three regional titles, three conference titles and four Charleston and Mattoon tournament titles.
“They’ve won a lot, and they have a lot to be proud of,” Ghere said.