One team would go home. The other would advance to the sectional final.
When Gibault and Columbia met on Wednesday night, players from each side knew the stakes. They knew the match would decide more than just bragging rights; it would decide whose season would end, and whose season would last for at least one more game.
In this game of monumental proportions, the Hawks came out on top, claiming a 3-0 victory over the Eagles on Columbia’s turf athletic field. The final score was not representative of the way the match played out, as the two teams staged a fierce battle for most of the game before Gibault pulled away in the final minutes.
The Hawks got on the board just 11 minutes in. A cross into the Columbia box found the head of Gibault’s Frank Mantia, who flicked it to teammate Wes Degener. Degener’s shot was saved by Eagles goalie Eddie Starr, but Gibault’s Mitch Meyer was there to finish the rebound, giving the Hawks a 1-0 advantage — a lead they would take into halftime.
Columbia came out in the second half on a mission, desperately trying to tie the game. The Eagles’ best chance came about 10 minutes into the half, but Brett Meyer’s long shot just missed, rattling off the crossbar.
The Gibault defense locked down after the scare, shutting down Columbia’s high potent offense, which includes all-state scorers Andrew Dossett and Matthew Roderick.
With slightly more than eight minutes remaining, Meyer lifted the tension of the 1-0 game with his second goal of the night. Once again, the goal came off a deflection, and Meyer was in the right place at the right time.
The Hawks weren’t done yet. Less than a minute later, Gibault scored again. Frank Mantia’s incredible, curling free kick landed at the feet of Tyler Enright, who tapped it home to put the icing on the cake.
In such a high stakes game, there is always joy on one side and heartbreak on the other. As the final horn sounded, the Hawks celebrated while the Eagles were left with the bitter taste of defeat. In the loss, Columbia failed to score a goal for the first time all season. The Eagles finished with a 21-3 record.
With the win, Gibault avenged a September defeat to the Eagles while at the same time continuing a streak of playoff victories over their cross-county rival.
Th Hawks advance to the sectional championship game, where they will take on Catholic rival Althoff at 6 p.m. on Friday night at Columbia High School.
“We can enjoy this win tonight, but we have to get re-focused tomorrow,” said coach Matt Reeb. “We can’t take our eyes off the prize.”