Boys soccer: Genoa-Kingston takes control to top Oregon in 1A regional final

OREGON – For the first 15 minutes of Friday afternoon’s Class 1A Oregon Regional championship, Genoa-Kingston and Oregon played back and forth, just feeling each other out.

But after the Cogs struck quickly and decisively for a pair of goals in a 42-second span midway through the first half, they took control and never let up in a 5-0 victory over the Hawks at Oregon Park West.

“It’s always good to have the offense do its work up front like that, so it takes a little pressure off the defense,” G-K senior defender Nate Skarzynski said. “Honestly, our passes have gotten a lot better, and just getting it up the field and counterattacking the other defense really works out for us.”

The top seed entering the regional, Genoa-Kingston (18-4) lived up to that billing by controlling possession for a majority of the game. The Cogs out-shot Oregon 30-4, including 22-1 on goal, and didn’t allow the Hawks (12-12-2) any chances for a goal on the counterattack.

G-K goalkeeper Aaron Acosta set a new school record with his 25th career shutout; Friday marked the 13th time this season he has held an opposing team scoreless. Afterward, he credited his defense with doing yeoman’s work in helping him reach that achievement.

“The record was kind of a bonus, really. There wasn’t really a huge emphasis on it. It was expected that if we just played our game, I would get it,” Acosta said. “I knew if I played well in goal and the defense did a good job defending – which they did – it would take care of itself.

“My defense is one key to our success, and I thank them. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten the current records I have here.”

The Cogs broke through in the 17th minute, when Julian Lara-Para controlled the ball up the right side to draw the Oregon defender, then slipped a pass to Diego Espinoza, who snuck a shot along the ground and past Hawks keeper Gavin Morrow into the lower right corner of the net with 23:35 left in the first half.

After breaking the ice, G-K pounced again less than a minute later. Brayan Garcia corralled a ball in front of the goal and shot into the lower left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead with 22:52 remaining before halftime.

“They got that one goal, then the next – we just had a little breakdown in the middle on defense two times in a row very close together,” Oregon coach Seger Larson said. “Their offense was better than what we could’ve gotten in order to counterattack their defense. They were just too fast.”

Genoa-Kingston's Javier Pizano takes a shot on goal as Oregon's Miley Smith tries to get a piece of the ball during 1A regional action in Oregon on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

Both teams settled into the flow for the next 18 minutes, then a free kick by Jorge “Junior” Leon ricocheted off a player before Javier Pizano headed it off the right goalpost. The spin caused it to carom sideways to the left and cross the goal line before Morrow could clear it.

That came with 4:23 left before the break, and the Cogs took a 3-0 lead into halftime.

“Right after we get all the stress off, it’s like we can calm down and actually think about our game plan and actually do what we’re supposed to do,” Acosta said. “At the beginning, we start off with emotion, then we calm down and do our game plan.”

It took G-K about the same amount of time to score its first goal in the second half, as Jay Wolcott dribbled up the left side and sent a perfect cross into the box. Max Rodriguez connected with his head to send the ball into the net for a 4-0 lead with 23:02 left in the game.

The Cogs’ final goal came on a penalty kick by Leon, after Wolcott was taken down from behind on a run in the left side of the box. Leon calmly banged the PK into the right side of the net, but then had to re-kick it after an illegal substitution. The second time, he popped it into the left side for a 5-0 lead with 13:58 remaining.

Genoa-Kingston's Max Rodriguez heads the ball in for a goal during regional action in Oregon on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

Morrow made 17 saves for Oregon, which suffered its third loss of the season to the Cogs. But Larson credited his team with not letting up for the full 80 minutes, and also praised defender Grant Stender for his strong work keeping Leon in check.

“That was the hardest we’ve played. Even after it became inevitable that we weren’t going to score four goals to catch up, we didn’t give up,” Larson said. “We had a different game plan. I put Grant on Junior the whole game, and Grant didn’t let Junior get anything going. Yeah, he scored a PK and assisted with the free kick, but those came off fouls, not Junior creating things.

“We also tried to give them the middle of the field, and we tried to win a little bit lower and then try and beat them with some speed on the outside, but they’re just fast.”

Genoa-Kingston advances to the 1A Wheaton Academy Sectional, where it will face Westminster Christian in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Westminster Christian defeated Aurora Central Catholic 3-0 in the Indian Creek Regional final on Friday.

Skarzynksi says the key for the Cogs to keep up their postseason run will be to focus in on their preparation and continue their effective communication by relying on their tight bond.

“We’re going to scout the opponent, and make sure our heads are in the right place. Obviously we’re going to practice as much as we can, just get the reps in and know what to expect,” Skarzynski said. “I would say our relationship is the biggest thing. We’ve all played together for so long, so we can connect passes easily, and we already know where our next move is. There’s a lot of trust on this team.”

Ty Reynolds

Ty Reynolds

Ty is the Sports Editor at Sauk Valley Media, and has covered sports in the Sauk Valley for more than two decades.