Logan Mills probably has never had a more meaningful goal.
Hunter Ketchum probably has never made more meaningful saves.
And, the St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ soccer team is probably playing in its most meaningful match on Friday in quite some time.
The Spartans have continued their late-season roll and will try to win the program’s first regional championship since 2012 when sixth-seeded SJO (18-4-1) takes on second-seeded St. Thomas More (14-4-1) at 4 p.m. Friday in a Class 1A regional title match at Fisher Village Park.
Here’s how SJO has fared in the past week as the Spartans try to claim just their second regional title in program history on Friday evening:
Mills, Ketchum shine
SJO came in to Wednesday night’s match against host Fisher/Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley the underdog as the Spartans had the sixth seed in the regional compared to the host Bunnies, who had the third seed.
Plus, Fisher/GCMS had defeated SJO 2-0 on Sept. 6 in Fisher.
But SJO’s defense bottled up Fisher/GCMS and the Spartans made their lone goal stand up in a 1-0 regional semifinal victory at Fisher Village Park. Ketchum, a senior goalie, made 11 saves in helping SJO notch its 11th shutout of the season.
And Mills, a sophomore, provided the only offense SJO ended up needing by scoring a first-half goal off an assist from freshman Ryker Lockhart.
Balanced offense propels first postseason win
The Spartans met little resistance in a 7-0 regional quarterfinal win at home against Blue Ridge last Friday.
SJO kept the 12th-seeded Knights off the scoreboard as Ketchum (two saves) and freshman Jacek Slowikowski (three saves) combined for the shutout.
SJO enjoyed a 5-0 lead at halftime thanks to two goals apiece in the first half by sophomore Collin Thomey and Mills. Freshman Alex Accosta scored the Spartans’ first goal of the match before adding another in the second half and then Thomey completed the scoring by registering a hat trick. Thomey and senior Jackson Greer each had assists in the second half.
SJO wins regular-season finale
The end of the regular season saw the Spartans hit the road for a nonconference match at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond last Thursday, with SJO heading home with a 6-2 victory.
Accosta scored two goals to pace SJO, while Mills, Thomey, Greer and freshman Zach Harper also scored goals. Thomey, Mills, Lockhart and Greer each chipped in assists as SJO took a 6-0 lead into the second half before the Knights tacked on two late goals.
A chance to add some history. The Spartans are playing in their fourth regional championship match since the program’s inception in 2008, having gone 1-2 in such matches. SJO won its lone regional title in 2012, beating Oakwood/Salt Fork 2-1 and advancing all the way to a sectional championship match. The Spartans lost 1-0 to STM in a 2013 regional championship match and lost 2-1 to Bismarck-Henning in a 2016 regional title match.
SJO carries an eight-match win streak into Friday, but STM has handed the Spartans one of their rare losses this season. The Sabers beat SJO 2-0 on Sept. 22 in Champaign.
If SJO can keep their season going and knock off STM, a sectional semifinal match awaits next week. The Spartans would play either top-seeded Bloomington Central Catholic or eighth-seeded Watseka at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19 in a match at STM. Bloomington Central Catholic and Watseka meet for the regional title at 4 p.m. Friday in Hoopeston. SJO beat Wateska 4-0 on Oct. 3, but lost 3-0 to Bloomington Central Catholic on Sept. 27.