HINCKLEY – Genoa-Kingston jumped out to an early lead and held off a second-half push from Marian Central Catholic to win 5-2 in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Sectional semifinal.
The one-two scoring punch of Eagan Reams and Junior Leon provided all the offense for the Cogs. Leon had two goals and Reams had the hat trick.
The Cogs jumped out to an early lead less than 2 minutes into the match on a header from Eagan Reams. Reams snuck the ball behind Hurricanes’ goalkeeper Dawson Yegge on a corner kick from Julian Lara-Para.
“That was kind of in our plan [to score early],” Cogs coach Randy Tate said. “Our plan was to score first and force them out of their defense and get our forwards open.”
Yegge was under fire throughout the first half, making six saves in the half and finishing with 12 saves for the match, including diving kick saves and slap saves at point-blank range.
“Yegge has been outstanding for us all season long,” Hurricanes coach Art Dixon said. “He’s made saves like that and stops like that in a lot of games.”
The Cogs’ potent offense kept coming, and they scored again in the 19th minute with a hard shot from Leon on a pass from Aiden Tomlinson. The goal put the Cogs up, 2-0, and they wouldn’t give up that two-goal cushion for the rest of the match.
In the final seconds of the half, Leon and Reams played give-and-go, leaving Reams open to tap the ball across the goal line just as time expired for the 3-0 halftime lead.
The Hurricanes came charging back to open the second half, scoring their first goal of the match less than two minutes in.
Derek Emmert smashed in a free kick from just outside the box in the top left corner of the net to put the Hurricanes on the scoreboard.
“We knew in the second half that we could get opportunities,” Emmert said. “It was just scoring on our chances. The first goal just let us have some more effort in the second half.”
Emmert sparked the Hurricanes offense, scoring two goals in the second half to put his team back in the game.
Ream and the Cogs answered quickly on a penalty kick less than two minutes after Emmert’s goal.
Reams was taken down from behind deep in the box and given a penalty kick, which he hit low past a diving Yegge to put the Cogs up, 4-1.
“We knew they were going to come out firing,” Reams said. “They’re a good team. We knew they meant business, but it didn’t mean that we’d shy away from our game plan. Sometimes you have to face adversity. We showed that we can come back.”
Emmert got his second goal of the match in the 55th minute on a penalty kick of his own after being tackled from behind inside the box.
The teams fought evenly for the rest of the match until Leon took a long pass from midfield deep into the box and headed it into the net for the insurance goal in the 78th minute.
Reams’ hat trick put him at 49 goals for the season. Leon ran his season total to 44 with his two goals.
The Hurricanes had plenty of chances to cut into the lead, but couldn’t find the back of the net. In the 63rd minute, the Hurricanes had an open net, but the ball went over the net.
“I actually think the two teams were quite equal,” Dixon said. “I just think we got unlucky in a couple of areas where the goal was at. I think if we turn some of those, the game would have been a lot tighter.”
Genoa-Kingston will play Wheaton Academy in the sectional final at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hinckley-Big Rock.