LCCC defeats Lincoln Trail to claim region title in regular season

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GODFREY – He may have had concerns ahead of his team’s Friday showdown with Lincoln Trail, but after a 5-2 victory, John Dunn knows at least one thing for certain:

He’s a believer.

The LCCC took an early lead and then took the Region 24 win in front of a Tailgate Day crowd at Tim Rooney Stadium.

“These guys sucked me in,” Dunn, the Trailblazers’ first-year head coach, said. “I’m a believer now, that’s for sure.”

The win clinched the regular season Region 24 title for LCCC. That means a first-round bye in the regional playoff tournament, as well as home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The LCCC took their overall record to 5-4 with the win, but finished 3-1 against Region 24 teams. The victory avenged a 2-1 loss on September 11 to LTC in Robinson. Lincoln Trail is 1-3 in area and Illinois Central College went 2-2 in area.

Lewis and Clark will also serve as the host site for the Central District tournament, meaning that as long as they continue to win in the playoffs, all of their games will be at home until a place in the national tournament.

“It’s really nice to have a home pitch, but just as important, we don’t have to play a play-off,” Dunn said. “I think it took time for everyone to get used to it. Now we are playing well.”

When the regional tournament kicks off the week of October 23, ICC and Lincoln Trail will play a first-round match to see who will play the LCCC for the regional title and qualify for the Central District playoffs.

However, district and national tournaments weren’t on Dunn’s mind until Friday’s showdown. But getting the ball in the goal probably took up a lot of his pre-game thoughts.

Goals have been a hot commodity lately for the Trailblazers. In the previous six games, they were outscored 11-6. But they entered Friday’s game on the back of the region’s back-to-back wins over Illinois Central College, 3-1, 1-0.

The goal shortage was settled early on Friday.

Gino Buffa put the LCCC ahead in the 12th minute when he rebounded from a Timmy Jurado shot. The game started with a corner kick from Enzo Rabot. LTC keeper Gonzalo Onrubia made the save on Jurardo’s shot, but the ball landed at Buffa’s feet and he scored.

Two minutes later, Eduardo Rodrigues and Bakuena Ramakatsa teamed up to make it 2-0. Ramakatsa took the ball on the left wing and sent an accurate cross pass to Rodrigues, who timed it from around 15 yards out.

“It was a really nice goal,” Dunn said. “We were controlling possession and finishing our chances today.”

With 14:05 remaining in the first half, the Trailblazers took a 3-0 lead. Kolby Uelk intercepted the ball and scored unassisted after the Statesmen struggled to clear it from their own defensive zone.

A successful penalty by Sean Docherty with 23 seconds left in the half made it 4-0. He had been fouled in the LTC penalty area and took the PK himself.

With a four-goal half-time lead, Dunn spent most of the break discussing the right attitude in the second half.

“We talked about staying focused at halftime,” Dunn said, “and playing with the same energy we had in the first half.”

Mission accomplished – almost.

The Trailblazers increased their lead to 5-0 10 minutes into the second half, but conceded two late in the game.

“I didn’t like conceding those two goals,” Dunn said. “It was nothing more than a lack of concentration.”

The LCCC’s second-half goal was scored by Josh Macklin, assisted by Jovanny Nsonga, in the 55th minute.

Guilherme Melchiori of Lincoln Trail scored both goals for his team.

With the Region 24 portion of their schedule complete, the Trailblazers will play five out-of-region games to complete the regular season. Those games begin at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rooney Stadium against Jefferson Community College. The LCCC will play Oct. 6 at Indian Hills College in Ottumwa, Iowa.

“We had the right energy today and we executed really well,” Dunn said. “I’m really happy with the way we played.

“We finished our chances today.”

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