TEUTOPOLIS — Mt. Zion senior Jacob Kovacs placed a penalty kick past Teutopolis keeper Seth Belford with less than 15 minutes left in the game that turned into the game-winner in the Braves' 2-1 win on Thursday.
The referee whistled for a penalty after seeing Mt. Zion's Craig Kenney fall to the ground amid a cluster of players in the box on a corner kick.
Unclear as to what happened, Mt. Zion head coach Jonathan Moore said one of his bench players saw a Teutopolis defender extend an arm to knock down Kenney. Teutopolis head coach Dustin Jansen said he saw the play as an even battle.
“Nobody's going to agree fully with the referee,” Jansen said. “I saw my guy go straight up and get his head on the ball. (Kenney) looked like he took a bit of a flop, coming down off balance.”
Teutopolis didn't sink after Kovacs penalty goal, though, as Kyle Blievernicht found the ball at his feet in front of the goalkeeper and shot it in for the Wooden Shoes' only goal of the game.
Mt. Zion kept up its offensive pressure, clinging to a one-goal lead, and Moore said his team's counter attack kept Teutopolis from pushing too many players forward offensively.
“Our last several pushes were really key to keep them on the defensive, instead of them being on their attacking third constantly,” Moore said.
The Braves missed a chance to put the game away with 9:36 left when a collision between Belford and a Mt. Zion attacker jarred the ball away and to the feet of a free-running Braves' player.
With an open net and Teutopolis players in pursuit, the Braves' attacker chipped the bouncing ball inches over the crossbar.
Teutopolis was still in the game and, despite Mt. Zion's loose-ball miscue, Jansen credited it to his goalkeeper, Belford, who made five saves in the game, including two diving saves.
“Seth Belford had a remarkable game,” Jansen said. “There were two (saves) that were absolutely epic. That's where the keeper position is so difficult. There's two plays where you can keep us in the game or we're out of the game totally.”
Mt. Zion attempted a direct free kick late in the game, putting a hard-shot ball on goal, and Belford dove through the air and knocked it away.
“I just hope we got that on video tape because that one off the free kick, 25 yards out, there aren't many keepers in (Illinois Class A) that could keep that out. The kid deserves the recognition there,” Jansen said.
Only placing five of 14 shots on goal, Jansen said his team missed some opportunities, but played a “great” game against a school in a higher athletic classification.
“We're looking at this game as a good thing,” Jansen said. “That was one of our best games out there this year. (Our players) had a remarkable game, but the cards didn't quite fall their way.”
Olney, which Jansen said is his team's toughest competition regionally, also played Mt. Zion in a loss.
Jansen said Olney's loss will be a tough barometer to compare to where his team is, in comparison, but Teutopolis will get a first-hand look at Olney on Tuesday when they play them.
In comparison, both Olney and Teutopolis played Effingham this season. Olney beat Effingham, 4-3, while Teutopolis fell to the Flaming Hearts, 2-1.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mt. Zion	1 1	2Teutopolis	0 1	1
Goals: Kenney 37:48, 1st (MZ), Kovacs 14:42, 2nd (MZ), Blievernicht 9:36, 2nd (T)Saves: Belford 5 (T), Liming 4 (MZ)