10/17/2013 3:26:00 PM Wildcats fall in section finals Chisago Lakes will face Hermantown on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. in Duluth
by CHUCK FITZER
Section 7A Finals Update: Hermantown 3, Chisago Lakes 1 The Wildcats fell short in their bid for a state tournament, losing 3-1 in the section finals to Hermantown. The 'Cats struck first, scoring three minutes into the game, but Hermantown scored three unanswered goals en route to a 3-1 victory. For a full story on the game, check out next week's Chisago County Press. Section 7A Semifinal: Chisago Lakes 1, Grand Rapids 0 Junior Zack Pautz’s header into the lower left corner of the net off of a corner kick by fellow junior Joey Dutcher eight minutes into the second half was the only goal in the top-seeded Wildcats’ 1-0 shutout of the fifth-seeded Grand Rapids Thunderhawks in the Section 7A semifinal game this past Tuesday, October 15 at Chisago Lakes High School. The win sent the Wildcats to the section championship game for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 2005 and 2006. The Wildcats will play sixth-seeded Hermantown, a 2-1 upset winner over second-seeded Monticello, in tonight’s section championship game at 6 p.m. at Duluth Denfeld High School.
Those in attendance Tuesday night saw one of the best soccer games of the year, despite the light drizzle that persisted throughout the game. The artificial surface took away all the mud and a lot of the slipperiness that there would have been with a grass field, allowing the players to use their speed, for the most part. The game featured excellent ball movement, solid defensive play and excellent goalkeeping by both teams. Both goalkeepers worked hard to keep the game scoreless in the first half. Twice, Grand Rapids sophomore goalkeeper Joseph Burt ran out well past the top of 18 yard box to knock away potential breakaways.
On a free kick by the Thunderhawks, Wildcat junior goalkeeper Ian Lawlor leaped to tip the ball over the crossbar. Lawlor had to make several saves and while the play was pretty even, the Wildcats didn’t get too many shots on net. All of their shots, with the exception of a couple of long ones and one from a bad angle, were blocked by the Grand Rapids defense. The Wildcats had a great scoring opportunity with about ten minutes left in the half. The ball was being knocked around in the Grand Rapids box and bounced to Pautz about six yards out. Pautz shot, but knocked the ball over the crossbar, keeping the score tied at 0-0. With three minutes remaining in the half, Grand Rapids had its best scoring chance of the game. A ball was sent over to the middle of the Wildcat box to a wide pen striker.
He quickly took a low shot from the middle of the box was headed inside the left post. Lawlor dove to make the save just before the ball crossed the goal line to keep the game scoreless. Wildcat head coach Mark Leigh, who will be honored as the top high school coach in that state at a banquet this coming Sunday, said “Ian kept us in the game, especially in the first half. He made several great saves and gave us a chance to win. It would have been nice to put another ball away to give ourselves a little breathing room, but Ian helped to make sure we didn’t need that extra goal.” After halftime, Grand Rapids shot just wide in the 45th minute, the Wildcats took over and put on some pressure. In the 48th minute, Dutcher got ready to take a corner kick from the right corner. As Dutcher lofted the ball into the air six yards out from the net, Pautz raced into the box, fought off a couple of defenders and headed a shot into the lower left corner to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
After the game, Pautz said “I went up for it the same way I always do, but it came right to me that time and I put it in.” After some thought, a humble Pautz acknowledged that the goal was the biggest one of his career. He also said quietly “I’m very fired up for the section championship game.” Both teams continued to generate scoring opportunities. Burt made a nice diving stop on a Wildcat free kick from the left edge of the box in the 57th minute. Less than a minute later, Lawlor made two saves on close in shots by the Thunderhawks before diving on a loose ball, just beating to it a Grand Rapids player who nearly fell on top of him.
In the 63rd minute, Dutcher showed off some fancy ball skills as he threaded his way through the Grand Rapids defense down the right side towards the right edge of the net, but his shot was blocked. 30 seconds later, a point blank shot by junior Joe Nagy slid just wide of the right post. And in the 66th minute, Grand Rapids was awarded a free kick 28 yards out from the Wildcat net in the center of the field. The ball hit the Wildcat ball at the top of the box and bounced to the right. A Grand Rapids player let a hard, well-directed shot fly, but Pautz blocked the rebound to defuse the scoring opportunity.
The Wildcat defense, which has been solid all season, took over from there. Senior Hunter Thompson directed things from the back. And junior Tory Copeland showed off his big leg, booming several goal kicks and couple of free kicks from the Wildcat half of the field deep into Grand Rapids territory to keep the ball away from the Wildcat net as time wore down. The buzzer finally sounded and the Wildcats and a couple of hundred jubilant fans celebrated the return to the section championship game.
Section 7A Quarterfinal: Chisago Lakes 3, Duluth Denfeld 0 The Wildcats got one goal from the always intense senior Trevor Gervais and one from each of the Pautz brothers, Zack and Nick, as they shut out the Duluth Denfeld Hunters in the Section 7A quarterfinals last Saturday, October 12 at Chisago Lakes High School. The win sent the Wildcats to the section semifinal game against Grand Rapids. The final score was misleading, as the Wildcats dominated play the entire game. The Duluth Denfeld goalkeeper kept his team in it, making half a dozen great saves and several other aggressive plays to keep the score close. On the other end, Wildcat junior goalkeeper Ian Lawlor only touched the ball about five times in the whole game, but had a big impact on the outcome. In the eighth minute, Lawlor pick up a ball that rolled into the Wildcat 18 yard box.
He unleashed a booming punt that hit 60 yards downfield and bounced high in the air. Gervais raced downfield to catch up with the ball he was briefly held by a Denfeld defender. But the referee let play go on as Gervais quickly broke free and chased the ball to the left edge of the 18 yard box, a few feet short of the goal line. Gervais sent a beautiful crossing pass into the box to freshman Nick Pautz, who knocked it into a wide open net to give CL a 1-0 lead Late in the half, the Wildcats kept generating scoring chance after scoring chance.
In the 31st minute, junior Zack Pautz unleashed a shot towards the inside of the left post from about ten yards out, but the Denfeld goalkeeper made a nice save, sticking out his right foot to redirect the ball just wide. A minute later, the Wildcats played send a perfect through ball to Gervais. From about 12 yards out, in the center, Gervais rolled the ball past the goalkeeper inside the right post to put the Wildcats up 2-0. And in the 34th minute, Joey Dutcher played a through ball to Zack Pautz moving into the 18 yard box. Pautz blasted a shot from 12 yards out, and the Denfeld goalkeeper had no chance as the ball hit the back of the net to give the Wildcats a more comfortable 3-0 lead. The Wildcats couldn’t put any more in the net in the second half, but it didn’t matter as Denfeld rarely got the ball out of their own end.