Thanks to a pair of goals from freshman Nate Evans and senior Collin Chilton, the second-seeded Indians will be playing for a district championship on their own field Wednesday night after knocking off No. 3 Fatima 2-0 in the opening semifinal round of the Class 2 District 10 Tournament on Monday.
A freshman started it and a senior finished it.
Thanks to a pair of goals from freshman Nate Evans and senior Collin Chilton, the second-seeded Indians will be playing for a district championship on their own field Wednesday night after knocking off No. 3 Fatima 2-0 in the opening semifinal round of the Class 2 District 10 Tournament on Monday. It is the third time Osage will be playing for a district championship in the past 10 years and the first time since 2013.
“I’ve never had this opportunity before and to have it is the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a district championship- especially on our home field,” said Chilton who effectively sealed the win with a late goal that came with just three minutes remaining.
“We are so far beyond what we were. My freshman year to now, there is no way you could compare the two teams.”
During that 2016 season Chilton recalled, Osage finished the year 4-20-2. Now, the Indians have an opportunity to win some hardware after picking up an eighth straight win to improve to 13-10.
“We finally just got it together,” Evans said of the winning streak. “We are finally working as a team and to win we just have to work as a team and do what we do best.”
Well, there were plenty of things Osage was doing well on Monday night and it began with solid possession in the first half where the Indians managed to sustain solid possession and create a host of opportunities that kept pressure on the Comets defense. Sophomore Ethan Ford nearly scored on a volley in the 16th minute that ricocheted off the cross bar and it was not long before Evans found his opportunity. The freshman put Osage ahead on a well-placed 20-yard strike that beat the outstretched Fatima keeper near the top right corner of the net in the 24th minute.
“It started all the way back at midfield. We were playing great balls, ‘one-twos’’ (quick passes) and we got the flick and the finish,” said Evans who found the ball at his feet with space to finish the shot.” It was great.”
Junior Ethan Kucsik nearly made it 2-0 just 12 minutes later on a shot that just skimmed the right post.
Fatima ramped up the pressure in the second half and had several opportunities to find the equalizer over the final remaining 40 minutes. However, senior goalkeeper Garrett Long and the Indian defense handled everything that came their way and kept the net clean.
“I knew Matt (Eisterhold) would have his boys ready to play and they’ve got a couple of kids that are ballers. We match up really well against them, but you never know,” said Osage coach Jason Long whose club managed to beat Fatima earlier this season by the same margin. “I did not want to jinx myself or the team thinking we’ve got this game because we’ve won it before. That is usually whenever you get overconfident and wind up losing.
“I cannot be more proud of the way those boys came together and played. They played loose, I told them to stay relaxed and there were a couple of times in the second half where they got a little physical with us... Just glad they were able to draw that back in, relax again and get that second goal.”
Osage junior Anthony Alberti nearly helped to create the second Osage goal with just under 14 minutes remaining on a long cross that nearly found the feet of freshman Will Faulconer. Then Chilton put the stamp on the win by scoring an open net goal with three minutes remaining as he received an assist from senior Robert Colonius who beat a few Fatima defenders and the keeper to create an easy finish.
“I watched the goalie come out of his box and knew this was a perfect opportunity to set up a shot. Bobby crossed it across the field and it was a perfect pass and wide open shot,” Chilton noted. “Just took my time, put it in the back of the net and secured the win for our team.”
For Long, it was just another example of his club’s style of play as he noted that there is no dominant scorer- just solid combination play that creates opportunities.
“Sometimes it makes me a little bit nervous because they try to combine a little too much inside the 18 (box) when they should be just trying to put the ball on frame... They prefer the combination play and try to get those open goals. It is making me go gray but that is the way these boys play,” Long joked.
“In the end, as long as they are scoring goals and we are getting the result they need, they can play however we need to pull those wins out.”
One thing Long would like to see improve before Wednesday is the transition from defense to offense where Osage simply does not look to clear a ball and give possession right back to the opposing team.
“Our defense does not get a chance to relax or catch their breath and that is when bad things happen. We caught some breaks tonight and they just could not get it in the net against us,” Long stated. “It easily could have been us and I think our defense did a good job frustrating a couple of their key players up front.”
Standing in the way of a district championship for Osage is the top seed Springfield Catholic (16-3) that beat Sullivan 2-0 in the previous semifinal. The Fighting Irish have been responsible for ending Osage’s season each of the past three years, but Long and the Indians are looking to change that narrative.
“They got a couple of good players up front that combine really well. It looks like the way we play, we might be able to play through the middle and put pressure on their defensive line,” Long said of the upcoming showdown. “We just have to make sure we keep it out of their offensive end.”
Kickoff is at 6 p.m.