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Worthington stays alive with victory

WORTHINGTON -- Playing under the Trojan Field lights for the second time in five days Monday evening, the sixth-seeded Worthington Trojans earned a 4-1 victory over No. 11 Madelia-St. James in the opening round of the Section 2A boys' soccer tournament.

"We started to play much better late in the first half and then carried that into the second half," Trojans head coach Vilath Lovan said. "The key for us was controlling the ball and making the extra pass. Plus, we played much better defense as the game progressed."

Worthington's Joe Dickey provided the second-half fireworks, as he scored a pair of goals to help the Trojans stretch a 2-1 halftime lead into the final 4-1 margin.

The Trojans dominated the action in the final 40 minutes, as they had the ball in the attack zone for the majority of the time. In fact, Worthington peppered the Hawks with 17 shots on goal in the second half.

Meanwhile, the Hawks had just one real scoring opportunity after the mid-game break, with a shot going just to the left of Trojan goaltender Derik Verdoorn.

M-SJ did control the ball for much of the first half, as Verdoorn was kept busy by David Avila and the Hawks.

After Worthington took an early 1-0 lead three minutes in on a header from Reymundo Cerda off a corner kick, Avila tied the game on a similar play with 28:53 showing on the clock.

Worthington (10-4-1) had a chance to regain the lead seven minutes later, but Juan Vasquez's shot hit the crossbar.

Avila then had the next prime scoring chance, but Verdoorn came up with a great save -- one of nine in the half and 11 for the game -- at the 4:30 mark to keep the score tied at 1-1.

Less than two minutes later, Worthington was on the board again. Rafael Jimenez rifled a shot from 30 yards out over the head of Luis Escobar for a 2-1 Trojan edge.

Escobar was hurt on the play, and Jose Montelongo replaced him and made several key saves in the second half for the Hawks.

M-SJ had a chance to tie the game in the first half's final minute, but Verdoorn made a leaping save, and the Trojan defenders thwarted a pair of corner kicks to keep Worthington in the lead.

Worthington gained control early in the second half, and with 35:33 left in the game, the Trojans had a 3-1 advantage.

Victor Sanchez had a blast saved by a diving Montelongo, but Dickey was right there for the rebound goal to give the Trojans a two-goal cushion.

Later, it was Dickey again providing the spark for Worthington -- this time with 31:56 to play -- as the junior forward took a bouncing ball on the right side and headed it past Montelongo for a goal to put Worthington ahead, 4-1.

Worthington maintained possession for almost all of the remaining time, but Montelongo dazzled the fans with his 14 second-half saves, including two sprawling stops within 10 seconds of each other at around the 16-minute mark, to keep the Trojans off the scoreboard.

The Hawks never really threatened again, and the Trojans closed out the victory to advance to the second round.

"This was a big victory for us," Lovan said. "The Hawks are a pretty good team and will be even better next year. We put in the extra effort and stepped up in the second half to keep our season going."

The Trojans play Thursday when they travel to third-seeded Willmar -- which defeated No. 14 Glencoe-Silver Lake -- at 4 p.m.

Madelia-St. James 1 0 -- 1

Worthington 2 2 -- 4