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O'FALLON, Ill. -- Nine days ago, the boys' soccer team at O'Fallon (Ill.) was slotted to play in the Gateway City Soccer Classic Master Bracket, which is comprised of local programs that are not considered on par with the region's elite teams.
Then, a late opening in the main tournament draw allowed O'Fallon to move into a premier bracket, and the team responded Thursday night with a rain-soaked 2-0 victory over Cherry Creek (Greenwood Village, Colo.), the No. 3-ranked team in Colorado.
O'Fallon's victory highlighted the first day of action at the Gateway City Soccer Classic held at multiple sites in the St. Louis area, and even overshadowed a battle of ESPN RISE FAB 50 teams as No. 7 St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.) defeated No. 38 St. John the Baptist (West Islip, N.Y.) 2-0. In other action Thursday, Quincy (Ill.) defeated Rockwood Summit (Fenton, Mo.) 2-0 and Rockhurst Jesuit (Kansas City, Mo.) edged Grandview (Aurora, Colo.) on penalty kicks following a 2-2 draw.
In Friday's ESPN RISE Bracket semifinals, ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 47 Quincy (13-0-1) faces No. 28 Rockhurst Jesuit (11-1) and O'Fallon (12-1) takes on St. Thomas Aquinas (9-0). Twenty-four other teams start play Friday in the other three tournaments -- the Adidas Bracket, the Master Bracket and Pool Play Bracket -- that make up the Gateway City Soccer Classic.
"Before the game, I was talking to the kids and I said, 'This is the chance of a lifetime. You're playing in one of the top tournaments in the nation and you're playing a team from Colorado,'" O'Fallon coach Jason Turkington said. "I told them to enjoy the moment and just play ... and they did. They didn't seem shell-shocked by the opponent, the situation, by anything."
Junior David Cole's upper-90 strike on a free kick from 34 yards out staked O'Fallon to a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute. Senior keeper Conor Knox kept O'Fallon in the match with a series of quality saves, including parrying away a point-blank shot by Cherry Creek sophomore Jake Gilchrist Dudley with less than six minutes remaining. One minute later, a throw-in into the penalty area by Cole eluded the Cherry Creek defense and O'Fallon sophomore Tyler Collico delivered a diving header finish to cap the upset in front of the home crowd at O'Fallon's stadium. The teams played the 80-minute match through stop-and-go rain.
O'Fallon got the chance to compete in the premier bracket when North Tahoe (Tahoe City, Calif.) officially dropped out less than two weeks prior to the event. Tournament director Eric Stratman offered the vacated spot to O'Fallon's rival, then-undefeated Belleville East, which declined, Stratman said. He then offered the spot to O'Fallon, which accepted -- and later that day O'Fallon defeated Belleville East.
Earlier Thursday at O'Fallon High School, when it came to solving the possession-style attack of St. John the Baptist, the St. Thomas Aquinas boys used their heads.
Aquinas cashed in on a pair of headers off corner kicks to top St. John the Baptist in a match that was delayed for 43 minutes in the second half due to lightning.
Midway through the first half, Emilio Quezada flicked a corner kick received from Tommy Harrison past the St. John keeper for a 1-0 lead. In the second half, center back George Skevington's charging header on a corner by Jordan Zarse finished the scoring.
"It's kind of a staple of the program," Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said of the team's set pieces. "We've been running this thing for years. Our kids are so disciplined when we run it that we get chances."
In other first-round matches at SIU-Edwardsville's Ralph Korte Stadium, Bronson Melvin and Zach Forbes scored for Quincy in its 2-0 victory. Then, after Grandview tied its match with Rockhurst Jesuit on a last-minute goal in regulation, Rockhurst won the shootout to advance to Friday's semifinals.
Gateway City Soccer Classic
ESPN RISE Bracket
St. Thomas Aquinas 2, St. John the Baptist 0. Goals: STA: Emilio Quezada (Tommy Harrison), George Skevington (Jordan Zarse).
Quincy 2, Rockwood Summit 0. Goals: Quincy: Bronson Melvin, Zach Forbes.
O'Fallon 2, Cherry Creek 0. Goals: O'Fallon: David Cole, Tyler Collico.
Rockhurst Jesuit 3, Grandview 2 (PKs): Goals: unavailable.
Consolation semifinals: Rockwood Summit vs. Grandview; Cherry Creek vs. St. John the Baptist.
Semifinals: Quincy vs. Rockhurst Jesuit; O'Fallon vs. St. Thomas Aquinas.
First-Round: Brother Rice (Chicago) vs. Marquette Jesuit (Milwaukee, Wis.); Reitz Memorial (Evansville, Ind.) vs. Glenwood (Chatham, Ill.); Christian Brothers College (St. Louis) vs. Dunbar (Lexington, Ky.); Zionsville (Ind.) vs. Cape Central (Cape Girardeau, Mo.).
First-Round: Glendale (Springfield, Mo.) vs. Glenbrook North (Northbrook, Ill.); Fort Zumwalt South (St. Peter's, Mo.) vs. Hudson (Wis.); Christian Brothers JV (St. Louis) vs. Hickman (Columbia, Mo.); Morton (Ill.) vs. Springfield Catholic (Springfield, Ill.).
Pool Play Bracket/Showcase Games
Belleville East (Belleville, Ill.) vs. Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.); Granite City (Ill.) vs. Cape Notre Dame (Cape Girardeau, Mo.); Dunlap (Ill.) vs. Horlick (Racine, Wis.); Showcase -- Whitefish Bay (Wis.) vs. Collinsville (Ill.).