RBHS defeats Hickman in thriller; advances to district championship

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Ji-Ho Lee

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. On Monday, Oct. 24, in the boys’ soccer district semifinal game between rivals RBHS and Hickman High School (HHS), two bolts of lightning propelled the Bruins to a thrilling 2-1 victory. These flashes, however, were not from the sky, but from the feet of midfielders Johnny Klein and Drew Stanowski.
Five minutes into the match, Klein, a junior, smashed a cross into the bottom corner of the goal. The ball tipped off of the outstretched fingers of HHS goalie, senior Jacob Gunn, and into the back of the net.
“My first reaction when I saw the ball hit the net was that I was just happy to put the team out in front,” Klein said. “But I knew that we had a long game to go.”
Ten minutes later, HHS senior midfielder Max Batek laced a free kick into the box. RBHS senior goalie Wilson Fitzgerald misjudged the ball, as it bounced over his head and into the net.
“The goal [scored by Hickman] was on me,” Fitzgerald said. “I can’t thank my teammates enough for keeping me in the game.”
Stanowski, the team’s senior captain, understood that the Bruins simply needed to respond.
“After they tied the game, we knew that all we could do was bounce back and score again,” Stanowski said.
Batek’s goal was the first time the Kewpies had found the back of the net against the Bruins all season. RBHS had faced their rivals two previous times, winning 4-0 and 2-0, respectively. Stanowski understood that this match was different than the previous two.
“The postseason changes everything,” Stanowski said. “We knew that they were going to come out and play with a lot of heart and intensity and we had to match it.”
After HHS tied the game 1-1, the following 87 minutes of play were dominated by physicality and strong defense.
“It was very chippy, but you know you’re going to get that against Hickman,” Klein said. There’s nothing you can do, you have to keep fighting through it.”
The physicality, combined with a strategic adjustment by the Kewpies, kept the game tied until the second overtime session, Stanowski explained.
With just over eight minutes remaining in overtime, and the treacherous penalty kicks looming, Stanowski, assisted by Klein, delivered a shot into the top left corner of the net. From nearly the same spot on the field as Klein’s goal, just outside of Gunn’s reach, the sudden death goal propelled the Bruins to a 2-1 victory.
“It was the first time I really had time to dribble in the box all game,” Klein said. “I was just trying to make something happen. It was not a great pass to Drew [Stanowski], but he did everything right to finish that ball.”
Stanowski, who received the pass from Klein, was simply trying to challenge the Kewpie keeper, but didn’t complain about the eventual result.
“When the ball came to me, I knew I had to get my shot on target and at the least get a rebound,” Stanowski said. “Fortunately enough, it went in.”
The Bruins will take on Smith-Cotton (SC) Wednesday, Oct. 26, who defeated host Jefferson City, 1-0. For Fitzgerald, a sharper defense will be the key to the team’s success.
“We are going to make sure that our defense is solid to contain their forwards,” Fitzgerald said. “They are fast and technical and we need to keep them in check.”
RBHS has already played SC in the year, defeating them by a 3-2 score — a score that Klein thinks cannot be reminisced upon.
“We know we’ve beaten them once but that means nothing,” Klein said. “However, we like how we match up to them and hope we can bring back the district title.”