Ironmen, United Township Panthers battle for Regional soccer championship

Senior Ian Henrichsmeyer splits time in net for the Ironmen with Parker Michels. Between the two, Community has shut out opponents 12 times this season.
Senior Ian Henrichsmeyer splits time in net for the Ironmen with Parker Michels. Between the two, Community has shut out opponents 12 times this season.
Mr. Jeff Christopherson

The 3-seed boys soccer team head back to East Moline tonight, taking on the 2-seed United Township on the Panthers’ home pitch with the Regional championship on the line. An Iron win would mean Community’s first Regional title since 2018. 

That title, head coach Mr. Matt Chapman said earlier in the year, is the first step toward the team’s “ultimate goal”–a successful postseason. 

The Ironmen enter the contest with a season record of 18-6-1, proving their mettle in the Regional Semis with a 3-2 win over the Rock Island Rocks (10-10) in East Moline on Tuesday to secure their place in the Regional finale.

The United Township Panthers (14-3) are coming off a commanding 9-0 Regional Semifinal victory over the Pekin High School Dragons (3-12-2). 

Chapman said the Ironmen and Panthers are relatively evenly matched, each boasting “quality goalkeeping, quality defending and a couple of guys that can really score.”

The Iron offense may have an advantage when it comes to scoring. 19 Ironmen have tallied goals this season, with seven recording four or more. 

“Most teams have about one or two people who have a bunch of goals,” Chapman said—but the Ironmen aren’t “most teams.” 

The Ironmen have netted 60 total goals, while conceding just 22. 

The Panthers offense is generated predominantly by two sophomore standouts Brodie King and Elijah Nache, who have 18 and 11 goals respectively. Joseph Pankey’s eight assists have been pivotal in setting up scoring opportunities.

The Panthers have found the back of the net 70 times, holding opponents to just 14 goals. 

Community had the opportunity to scout the Panthers Tuesday and develop a game plan to stop their standouts.

“We did get to see their key players in action,” Chapman said, learning more about the team’s strategy and tendencies. 

Winning in blowout fashion, Chapman said, he doesn’t think the Panthers showed everything they are capable of. 

The teams’ regular season schedule also provides a scouting report of sorts. 

The two teams have crossed paths with three common opponents, with the Panthers going a perfect 3-0 and the Iron 2-1. 

The outlier? The 14-4-3 Dunlap Eagles. 

Community fell to Dunlap 2-0 on Sept. 6 with the Panthers edging past the Eagles 1-0 the following night.

“Our game with Dunlap was very evenly matched,” Chapman said. “They happened to score two goals in the last eight minutes of the game.”

The outcomes of the two teams’ matches against Dunlap are no secret. 

And Chapman thinks this plays in the Iron’s favor–that the Panthers might enter tonight’s match over-confident as a result. 

Perhaps adding to that confidence, Chapman said, was United Township witnessing Community squeak out a win against Rock Island Tuesday.

“We played well enough to win,” the coach said, “but we were not at our best.”

Watching the Iron’s one-goal win over a .500-team, Chapman hopes, might have the Panthers underestimating Community. 

Tonight’s winner, Chapman said, will be determined by which team can capitalize the most on its opportunities. 

“It’s really going to come down to who makes the plays and can pounce on their team’s mistakes,” Chapman said.

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