Boys soccer pounces on Panthers, look to maroon Moline in Sectional Semi-Finals

Chase Dwinal has been instrumental in Communitys 19-6-1 record as the teams second-leading scorer this season.
Chase Dwinal has been instrumental in Community’s 19-6-1 record as the team’s second-leading scorer this season.
Mr. Jeff Christopherson

The boys soccer team claimed its first Regional title since 2018 in East Moline on Friday with a 2-0 victory over the United Township Panthers, the team’s 13th shutout of the season.

The 2-seed Panthers had only been kept scoreless in two of their 17 season match-ups before Friday’s championship—stiff competition for the 3-seed Ironmen.

The Regional title, head coach Mr. Matt Chapman said, could have gone to either team heading in.

“In these types of games,” Chapman said, “it’s who makes mistakes and who takes advantage of their team.”

Take advantage is precisely what the Ironmen did.

Community’s defense held East Moline to just three shots on the goal—all shots goalkeeper Parker Michels (’24) saved.

Fellow senior stand-out Chase Dwinal found the back of the net for the Ironmen to give Community a 1-0 advantage. Dwinal’s score—his eighth of the season—came off a Vallen Thorpe assist.

The goal from the team’s “de facto team leader,” Chapman said, was in typical Dwinal fashion.

Dwinal is the player the Ironmen look to “to get the engine going,” Chapman said, to “come up with a big play in a big moment in a big game.”

The Ironmen went up 2-0 when Dillon Tierney, the team’s leading scorer, “pounc[ed] on a mistake that United Township made,” Chapman said, scoring his twelfth goal this year.

“Their defender passed back to their goalkeeper, and Dillon was applying some pressure,” Chapman said. “I think the goalkeeper mishandled it and just knocked it in.”

The Community roster’s lone freshman, Cooper Lee, assisted the goal—a reflection of Lee’s ability to “come off the bench and just provide a little spark and a little something different,” Chapman said.

“He’s a really eager player,” Chapman said. “He’s a soccer fanatic. He watches soccer all the time and practices on his own all the time.”

That level of dedication is not uncommon on the experienced Community team.

The team’s 14 seniors, Chapman said, have shown “leadership and maturity” on the road to the first Regional title of their high school soccer career—a title that has been just within reach for the past three seasons.

After COVID denied all IHSA soccer teams a post-season in 2020 and with the Iron falling short in 2021 and 2022, Chapman said, this Regionals game was significant for the “handful of guys” with previous varsity experience.

“I was really, really happy for them to get this championship feeling,” Chapman said.

Now, Regionals under their belts, the Ironmen are still kicking.

Community faces the undefeated Moline Maroons in tonight’s 5 p.m. Sectional Semi-Final at Normal West.

The top-seeded Maroons are coming off a comeback win. After trailing the Minooka Indians 1-0 at the end of the first half in their Regional Title match Friday, they put together a string of three scores in the second half to advance to Sectionals with a 3-1 victory.

The 15-0-3 Maroons have only allowed 10 goals this season and just won their fourth consecutive Regional title—they are not a team to be taken lightly.

“Moline’s coach is an amazing coach,” Chapman said. “He’s probably a future Hall-of-Famer. He’s a guy that I’ve asked for advice.”

But the Ironmen aren’t without advantages.

Community’s hometown advantage—its familiarity with the West field combined with more student fans and Moline’s two-hour bus ride—“could be helpful,” Chapman said.

For both teams, though, defense will remain a vital factor.

“They’re going to be tough to score on,” Chapman said, “but I think we’re going to be tough to score on too.”

At the playoff level, Chapman said, every team knows how to “capitalize on… strikes”—each game determined, yet again, by taking advantage of mistakes.

“It’s going to be a really fun battle to see who can break the other team down somehow,” Chapman said.

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