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DeMatha wins clash of soccer titans

It was East vs. West. POWERADE FAB 50 No. 4 vs. No. 5. Nation’s longest undefeated streak vs. one of the longest win streaks.

Jesuit (Carmichael, Calif.) traveled 2,000 miles and DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) ventured nearly 1,000 miles to St. Louis for this boys’ soccer showdown Saturday night to cap the Gateway Soccer Classic.

Yet, after 100 minutes of soccer, these powerhouse programs seemed separated by a mere 12 inches – the distance between success and failure as a pair of Jesuit players clanged shots off the crossbar in the shootout as DeMatha emerged with a 4-1 shootout victory following a 1-1 draw through regulation and two overtime sessions.

“In this game, sometimes it’s a tale of inches,” DeMatha coach Daffyd Evans said.

The result extended DeMatha’s win streak to 34 matches, the second-longest active win streak in the country regardless of season. Meanwhile, the outcome brought to a close a 70-match undefeated run by a reeling Jesuit program that has been hammered by two season-ending injuries and a pair of midseason club defections.

“This weekend we faced a lot of adversity,” Jesuit coach Paul Rose said. “It doesn’t look good on the record [a loss to DeMatha and a tie with Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.)], but it will get us over the hump for the rest of the season.”

The DeMatha-Jesuit clash was last of the 85 contests played among 59 teams representing 12 states during the three-day Gateway event. Earlier Saturday, Cherry Creek (Englewood, Colo.) edged Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.), 2-1, in overtime to claim the Bracket A title. Washburn Rural (Topeka, Kan.) defeated Quincy (Quincy, Ill.), 1-0, for the Bracket B championship. DeSmet (St. Louis, Mo.), Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Ft. Zumwalt West (O’Fallon, Mo.) won their round-robin groups. Eureka (Eureka, Mo.), Parkway Central (Chesterfield, Mo.) and Kickapoo (Springfield, Mo.) won bracket titles, as well.

However, the focus Saturday night was placed at Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.) where a couple hundred spectators witnessed the DeMatha-Jesuit meeting, which was a display of high-speed soccer. DeMatha’s blazing-fast forwards stretched Sacramento Jesuit’s defense the entire night, producing several scoring chances. However, the Stags’ lone finish came 90 seconds before half when Jacori Hayes played a ball to Chris Odoi Atsem, who beat the Jesuit defense and was alone on the goalkeeper. Atsem’s shot hit the near post and bounced to right of the goal. Staying with the play, Atsem gathered the rebound and sent the ball across the goal mouth where John Lopes finished the scoring chance for a 1-0 lead.

Midway through the second half, Dylan Wong scored for Jesuit to make it 1-1 after DeMatha defenders were unable to clear a ball that bounced around the Stags’ goal mouth.

Meanwhile, DeMatha continued to pester the Jesuit goal with Atsem missing a pair of wide-open attempts and Jesuit defenders Austin Wiberg and Austin Burrows each clearing balls off the line to keep the contest close.

Although there was no tournament format or need to resolve the tie, the coaches had agreed prior to the match to take it all the way to a shootout, if needed.

In the shootout, Sam Schmidt converted in the upper right to give DeMatha a 1-0 lead on the first attempt. Wong’s shot had DeMatha keeper Brendan Burke guessing the wrong way, but the attempt hit the crossbar.

“I panicked [when he dove left and the ball sailed right] then I heard the ding [ball hitting the crossbar],” Burke said. “It was best sound in the world.”

Sean Cowdrey and Danny Brandt calmly converted their attempts as DeMatha built a 3-1 lead before Jesuit’s Michael Cordano stepped to the spot. His shot, like Wong’s, clipped the crossbar.

DeMatha’s Michael Parker ended the match with a shot in the upper right that sealed the 4-1 victory and prompted a dog-pile celebration by the Stags’ players.

Bracket A Final

Alex Brown’s overtime goal lifted Cherry Creek to a 2-1 victory over Rockhurst in the championship match. The showing gave Cherry Creek its first Gateway title after attending the event the past four years – improving upon its showing each time. In 2008 and 2009, Cherry Creek went 1-2. Last year, the team went 2-1. This year’s 3-0 mark with wins over three POWERADE FAB 50 teams will keep Cherry Creek among the FAB 50 Top 10.

Marco Toscano scored in the first half to give Cherry Creek a 1-0 lead. Rockhurst’s Jim Brazeal responded with a 30-yard strike in the upper right corner to even the score in the second half.

In other matches, Granite Bay (Granite Bay, Calif.) handled Christian Brothers, 4-1, in the third-place match. St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.) used a corner kick goal in the closing minute to edge Peoria Notre Dame (Peoria, Ill.) for fifth place. St. Louis University High (St. Louis, Mo.) defeated St. Anthony’s (South Huntington, N.Y.), 3-0, in the seventh place match.

Bracket B Final

Sophomore Taylor Tarvin scored the game’s lone goal as Washburn Rural remained undefeated with a 1-0 victory over Quincy in the championship match.

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) defeated Denver East (Denver, Colo.), 3-2, in the third-place match. Beacon School (New York, N.Y.) won the fifth-place match over Jefferson City (Jefferson City, Mo.).