The Blue Jays are coming to conquer the state in soccer.
That might have struck some as braggadocious when Washington forward Michael Andrews said it following the Blue Jays’ district championship victory two weeks ago. A couple of rounds later and it feels less like bravado and more like a prophecy.
After shutout victories against Webster Groves and North County in the sectional and quarterfinal rounds, Washington (24-8) needs just two more wins to capture the Class 3 state championship. The first would need to come at high noon Friday against Harrisonville (25-3) at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton. The winner of that game will advance to play the winner of the 2 p.m. semifinal between Parkway Central (19-8-1) and Republic (23-4). Of the four teams, Washington is the only one to have advanced beyond the district tournament last season.
Saturday’s championship game is set for 2 p.m. A third place game will be played earlier, starting at 10 a.m. Both games will again be at the WWT Park in Fenton.
This Washington team has proven early and often that they have what it takes to play with the best in the state and has shown a propensity for winning close games and putting opponents away late. The Blue Jays are 9-2 in games decided by one goal.
The Jays showed early they could score late, doing so twice in a come-from-behind jamboree match to defeat West Plains at Waynesville. Soon after, the Jays opened the season with a come-from-behind win on a late goal from Conlan Jarvis.
More often than not, it’s been Jarvis finding the net late in games this season. He leads the team with 28 goals, 14 of them the deciding point in the game. However, the tandem of Andrews and Jeremiah Collins have proven to be very dangerous during the playoff run.
The two connected on a corner kick from Collins to Andrews in the second half against Pacific to erase a one-point deficit in the district championship game before Collins blasted a long goal later in the half to secure the team’s second ever district title.
After the Jays had won the district the previous year only to make a quick exit after a 5-0 loss to last year’s Class 3 state champion Rockwood Summit in the sectional round, Washington made sure to not suffer the same fate again. Behind superb goal play from Ottmar Escalante, who shut out Webster Groves, it was again Collins on a corner kick to Andrews that advanced the Jays to the next round.
Andrews and Collins once again accounted for Washington’s only goals in the 2-0 win against North County. Andrews’ goal came on a header off a pass from Trent Lewis while Collins made good on a penalty kick after Jarvis was pulled down in the box.
The Blue Jays have a 1-2 goalkeeping punch that have frustrated opposing offenses all season long in Escalante and Christian Longseth. Opponents are forced to prepare for both as Head Coach Derek Schriewer doesn’t make his decision as to who will be in the net each game until he sees the pregame warmups.
This season, Escalante has set a new single season record for the program with 10 shutouts. He surpassed the previous record of eight, which had been set by Longseth the previous year. Longseth, by the way, has recorded eight shutouts again this season. The tandem shared time in the net on three of the team’s 15 shutout wins.
The Blue Jays took some tough losses on the chin early in the season, particularly in the St. Dominic tournament, where they went winless against Ft. Zumwalt West, Class 2 state champion Priory, and Class 4 semifinalist Vianney. Vianney, like Washington, will vie for the state title in its class Friday and Saturday in Fenton.
However, the Blue Jays found their stride coming out of the Hillsboro tournament, in which they finished third, winning 19 of the last 21 games. Only three times during that stretch has Washington allowed more than one goal. The Jays have outscored opponents 67-15 during that run.
Matching up with the Blue Jays in the semifinal will be the Wildcats from Harrisonville.
The Wildcats have hoisted the trophy in three out of five tournaments this season, winning tournaments at Smithville and Oak Park in addition to the Class 3 District 14 Tournament.
Washington and Harrisonville do not share any common opponents from the regular season. However, Rolla defeated the Wildcats 2-1 in penalty kicks at Rolla on Oct. 13. The Jays beat Rolla 2-0 in the preseason at the Waynesville jamboree.
The Wildcats only other losses on the season have come 2-1 against Excelsior Springs and 7-3 against Smith-Cotton in the first game of the season at Smith-Cotton’s tournament.
Harrisonville has proven capable of putting together long winning streaks. After the season-opening loss, the Wildcats won 19 in a row. They’ve currently won four in a row and six of their last eight.
The Wildcats have made their way through the postseason with wins against Grandview and Belton in their district and against Marshall and East (Kansas City) in the sectional and quarterfinal rounds.
Harrisonville beat Marshall twice this season, 5-0 in the Smith-Cotton Tournament and 1-0 in the sectional game. Sources in Marshall say the Harrisonville club is fundamentally sound in front of a strong goalkeeper, Brody Pitts.
Scorers to watch for include Connor Blentlinger and Seth Wiebusch.
The Colts, like the Jays, have taken a few lumps throughout the season, suffering eight losses.
Also like Washington, Parkway Central has found itself on the winning side of some tight games, going down to the wire to beat Parkway West 2-1 in penalty kicks for the title in Class 3 District 5. More recently, the team narrowly escaped the state quarterfinal with a 2-1 victory in double overtime at home against Ft. Zumwalt South. Their other win-or-go-home victories have come against Westminster in the district semifinal and Ladue in the sectional round.
The Blue Jays have a lot of familiarity with Zumwalt South, playing each other twice a year in the Gateway Athletic Conference Central. This season, the Bulldogs beat Washington 6-2 at Scanlan Stadium, but the Jays returned the favor with a 5-4 win at Zumwalt South.
Washington and Parkway Central have shared three other opponents this season.
Holt, the GAC Central Champions, swept the Blue Jays in two meetings and also beat the Colts. Both the Colts and Blue Jays shut out Affton. Parkway Central was on the wrong side of a 1-0 game against Washington’s sectional opponent, Webster Groves.
The Colts have used three different goalkeepers this season with most of the minutes in the net going to Blake Siegel, who is 12-6 with seven shutouts.
Adam Burnett and Will Peacock are the team’s leading scorers with 19 and 13 goals respectively.
The Tigers are another team that has had some close scrapes to advance this far.
Republic outlasted Carthage 3-2 in overtime to win the Class 3 District 11 tournament. The Tigers got by Willard 2-1 in the district semifinals and Glendale by the same score in the state quarterfinals.
Republic had no problems with Neosho in the sectional round, winning 5-2.
The Blue Jays and Tigers do not share any common opponents from the regular season. However, the Jays scored two goals in the final minutes against West Plains in the Waynesville Jamboree to win 2-1. West Plains later lost 8-1 at Republic on Aug. 31.
Republic’s losses this season have come against Kickapoo, Nixa, Springfield Catholic and in a double overtime game against the team it beat in the district final, Carthage.
Like the Jays, Republic has a knack for winning close games. The Tigers are 11-3 in games decided by just one goal. They have played four overtime games this season, winning three of them. Three of the four went to double overtime.
Also like Washington, Republic has never been this deep in the state tournament in the program’s history. This season marked the team’s first ever district title win.
The Tigers are a strong counter-attacking unit, led by Dylan Brown. Brown was responsible for both of Republic’s goals in the quarterfinal round against Glendale. He has netted an astounding 54 goals this season, ranking in the top 10 all-time in MSHSAA history for a single season.
Junior goalkeeper Dalton Ghan has been in the net all season for the Tigers, posting a 90 percent save rate with seven shutouts.