Canton forward LaVion Wilson dogged Sacred Heart’s captain and leading scorer, Sebastian Aguero, for 80 minutes.
What Wilson lacked in technical skill, he made up for with speed. With each touch Aguero earned, Wilson was already his shadow or on a direct route to tangle and harass the Gremlin striker.
The best chance Aguero had to snap a scoreless draw was on a Francisco Rojas corner kick in the second half. Rojas laced his cross low and Aguero’s header, well-timed, clanked off the crossbar.
Sergio Guerra, party of one, controlled the rebound and legged in the match’s first and final goal Saturday, Oct. 29 at Clover Dell Park in a 1-0 Sacred Heart victory over Canton.
Guerra credited the Gremlins’ season-long, and state quarterfinal success to its underclassmen. Sacred Heart (16-9-1) has three seniors on its roster.
“Some new guys had to step up and they clearly did it,” Guerra said. “They’re playing their hearts out.”
The win secured a match Friday, Nov. 4 at the Class 1 Missouri State Soccer Tournament semifinal against Maplewood Richmond Heights.
Sacred Heart labored against the wind in the first period. Early scoring chances from Aguero, Rojas and Ryan Chmelir prompted impatience. Gremlins head coach Sam Jones said the attack too often relied on long passes.
“We would get the ball and were just looking to play over the top, and that’s not our style,” Jones said. “The wind kind of forced us into that, but, sometimes we get a little excited.
Two more matches determine the 2016 Gremlin’s legacy: final four participants, runners-up or state champions. Jones said playing shorter and with possession is key to Sacred Heart’s tournament run.
“That’s going to be important for us for these next two games,” Jones said. “We can not break our style … The caliber of teams we play, we’re going to have to play the ball on the ground, and we’re going to have to connect and play creative.”
Canton nearly equalized moments after Guerra’s goal. The Tigers earned a free kick yards from the penalty area, and Trey Metz looped a shot over the Gremlin wall. Dylan Hayden narrowly deflected the ball above the crossbar.
Saturday’s wind hounded the Canton equalizer effort. Clearing the ball proved difficult, and Sacred Heart shots on goal grew casual.
The contentious, enduring battle between Aguero and Wilson echoed the result. Canton tired in the second half.
“It was hard at first, because (Wilson) was pretty fast,” Aguero said. “I tried to keep the ball on the ground, because every long ball he would catch me. He’s pretty fast. But then the second half, I think he got tired and I took advantage of it. We just couldn’t find the net in the first half.”
First kick against Maplewood Richmond Heights is 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4 at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri. The championship match is 4 p.m. Saturday.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2