10/24/2013 2:42:00 PM Wildcats fall one win short of state
by CHUCK FITZER
With the top-seeded Wildcats dominating and leading sixth-seeded Hermantown 1-0 midway through the first half in the Section 7A championship game, Wildcat Logan Delmont was called for a handball in the Wildcat penalty area. Delmont was ejected from the game and Hermantown converted the ensuing penalty kick to tie the game at 1-1. With the Wildcats now down a man, Hermantown and the steady rain took control of the game. They scored twice and held the Wildcats scoreless the rest of the game to win 3-1 and steal what would have been the Wildcats’ first ever trip to the state tournament.
Early in the game, it looked like the Wildcats would win this one going away. They had already shown good ball movement and had taken a corner kick when they were awarded another corner kick in the third minute. Joey Dutcher lofted the ball from the right corner to the left side of the net about six yards out. Hunter Thompson got a head on it and popped it into the air. Trevor Gervais stepped in and headed a line drive past the Hermantown goalkeeper and into the left side of the net for a 1-0 Wildcat lead. For the next 11 minutes, the Wildcats continued to dominate play, but got off few shots and really didn’t test the weak Hermantown keeper.
In the 14th minute, Joe Turnquist threw the ball in from the right sideline just a few yards from the goal line in Hermantown territory. The ball appeared to roll through the legs of the Hermantown keeper as he bent down to pick it up a few yards outside the right post. Zack Pautz was charging and the ball came right to his foot five yards out from the center of the net. Pautz ripped a hard shot with his left foot and somehow sent the ball wide right, missing the net and what appeared to be an easy goal that would have put the Wildcats up by two. Then disaster struck in the 22nd minute. A Hermantown player chased a long pass down the center of the field into the Wildcat zone and pushed the ball way ahead of himself towards the net on a breakaway.
Wildcat goalkeeper Ian Lawlor decided to try to beat the Hermantown player to the ball. Lawlor raced out several yards past the top edge of the 18 yard box. The Hermantown player beat Lawlor to the ball and carried it around him. Meanwhile, two Wildcat defenders had filled in the penalty area to try to stop a shot. Logan Delmont was about 12 yards out and another Wildcat defender was on the goal line. The Hermantown player took a hard shot from the center of the field just outside the 18 yard box. As the ball whizzed toward Delmont, he instinctively stuck up his hand and knocked the ball away. The center referee immediately blew his whistle. He jogged over to Delmont and pulled out a red card, ejecting Delmont, because a handball in the defensive penalty area by a defender is an automatic ejection for that player.
The handball also resulted in a penalty shot being awarded to Hermantown. Daniel Hedstrom took the penalty kick and ripped a hard waist high shot past a diving Lawlor and inside the left post to tie the game at 1-1. With the Wildcats short one player for the rest of the game, the Hawks started to get the better of the play. In the 30th minute, a ball rolled into the right side of the Wildcat penalty area. Hawk Sijilfredo Gomez controlled the ball, made a nice move to the left to shake off a Wildcat defender and put himself even with the right post. Gomez ripped a shot toward the center of the net from about ten yards out and Lawlor never had a chance as the ball smacked into the back of the net, putting the Hawks ahead 2-1. Just two minutes into the second half, the Hawks gave themselves some breathing room. A Hawk forward made a long run down the right side of the field. He ripped a shot from the right side of the box about 15 yards out. The ball would have gone wide left. But it glanced off Wildcat defender Cole LaValle, who was trying to block the ball, and into the net to put the Hawks up 3-1.
The Wildcats had a good scoring opportunity in the 64th minute, but the shot went just over the crossbar. In the 71st minute, Lawlor made a three nice saves in a scramble in front of the Wildcat net to keep the Wildcats’ faint hopes alive. The Wildcats headed a ball high in the 75th minute and that was their last serious scoring opportunity. Disappointed Wildcat players, coaches and fans watched at the end as the sixth-seeded Hawks celebrated their trip to the state tournament.
“When Zack shot the ball from close in,” said Leigh, “I just assumed it was going in. It was quite a shock when I realized it had gone wide right. If you look at this game, we lost because the weaknesses in everybody’s play came out. Joey Dutcher didn’t attack aggressively when we were behind. Trevor Gervais played overstrong and had a couple of fouls that cost us. Ian Lawlor came out past the edge of the box when there were defensive players in the area, and being out of position led to a wide open net and the handball in the box. Logan Delmont and Zack Pautz made crucial mistakes. We can’t blame the loss on any one player. It just wasn’t our game to win. We should have won based on personnel, record and how well we were playing to start off the game, but it just wasn’t to be. None of that stuff means anything. We need to give Hermantown credit. They attacked the net, they sent the ball into the penalty area and they made the runs down the field. And they won the game. It’s just a bad deal all around. If you take away the ejection, the game probably ends differently. But we’ll never know.”