FARIBAULT -- Maybe the Faribault Falcons forgot that the Worthington Trojans are the defending Section 2A champions.
Maybe they expected the Trojans, who lost to the Falcons 3-2 in the regular season, to follow the script and exit the tournament.
The Trojans were having none of it. Instead, they traveled to Faribault on a cold, windy, snowy Saturday afternoon and beat the Falcons 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Section 2A high school boys soccer tourney.
That didn’t sit well with some of the Falcons.
“We were all just shaking hands. They punched our captain. As soon as it happened, we were just trying to break it up. As soon as I started helping to break it up, somebody hit me in the head,” said WHS junior Eric Knuckles, who scored the Trojans’ first goal with 12 minutes gone in the first half.
“The game was really an aggressive game. Both teams were very good. We came in here as the underdog. They weren’t expecting that. We were gonna bring it. They were playing against us and the cold. We just had one opponent. They had two,” said Worthington’s Terbuto Ochothow, who scored the second goal barely a minute after Knuckles scored his.
Leading 2-0 at halftime, Worthington was every bit as solid in the second half as it was in the first. Faribault scored its only goal with just a little under eight minutes remaining. It happened only a couple of feet in front of the WHS goal, and the Falcons won the point as a cluster of players from both sides fought for the ball.
After that, Worthington held firm.
The Trojans, who qualified at state in both 2017 and 2018 but graduated several key seniors from the ‘18 team, were totally ready for an upset Saturday afternoon. They entered as the tournament’s sixth seed while the Falcons were No. 3. But the visitors controlled the game throughout. They were more aggressive, they were faster, they connected their passes better, and they were supremely focused on their defense en route to topping the Falcons on their own field.
The Falcons weren’t emotionally prepared for the loss. As the two teams began to shake hands at the conclusion, things got out of hand. Several Trojans said they were attacked. There were some reports that even adults were involved. Police were called to the scene to restore order.
One Trojan, after his team was herded to one corner of the field while police arrived, doubled over while complaining of being kicked in his ribs. He was helped off the field by two police officers.
“They were pretty frustrated losing to us,” was the way Ochothow summed it up.
“I think they thought they were gonna come in here and beat us again,” said Knuckles. “Because earlier in the season, they beat us 3-2, and they thought it was gonna be a cakewalk.”
With 27:55 showing on the first half clock, Knuckles lofted a kick from about 20 yards from the FHA net and it settled untouched into the upper section for the first point of the game.
“It was a corner. It came across. Everybody missed it. It was right in front of me. I just turned and took my shot,” he said.
Then at the 26:47 mark, Ochothow scored on a short punch shot about 10 yards away directly in front of the goal. Knuckles was credited with the assist.
Faribault tried to put pressure on the Trojans in the second half, but mostly failed, and the Trojans improved to 10-6-2 on the fall season and lived on into the semifinals. Head coach Juan Flores’ team will play Mankato West -- the tournament’s No. 2 seed -- at North Mankato’s Caswell Park at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
West defeated Fairmont 6-0 on Saturday.
Flores knew his team was ready for the Falcons.
“We had a positive mentality. We knew we were the underdog. Today we showed up to play,” he said. “Usually in a game like this, I’m pretty nervous. Today I felt good. I felt relaxed. I felt today could be our game.”
He added, “They weren’t prepared for us to come in and upset them.”
“It’s win or go home,” said Ochothow. “One thing coach told us is we just gotta play calm. We had to play with the ball and play with pressure.”
“The mentality coming into the game was we’re coming here to take what’s ours,” explained Knuckles. “I know we graduated a lot of seniors, but we’re the defending champions, and we’re going to go back to state.”