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High School Boys Soccer: Jackson makes history by winning first state championship

Photo by Darren DeLoach

Amid a global pandemic this fall, the Jackson boys soccer team made school history as the Indians won the Class 4 State Championship — their first-ever. Jackson did so with a 1-0, overtime-win over the No. 15 ranked team in the nation, the St. Dominic Crusaders.

Not only was the first state title for the program, but it was also Jackson’s first-ever appearance in the state championship game and final four.

Scoring the game-winning goal in the state final was none other than the Class 4 Co-Offensive Player in junior forward Chalon Domian, who did so during the 83rd and final minute of the match. Domian did so after fellow first team all-stater and junior Wil Essner won a head ball off a goal kick.

Even though neither team scored in the first 80 minutes of regulation, the Indians were able to apply some pressure to St. Dominic’s defense in the second half. This gave Jackson momentum heading into overtime as the Indians only needed three minutes of overtime to force the Crusaders to make a mistake.

Domian scored the game-winning goal after intercepting a pass by one of the St. Dominic defenders that he was trying to make to the goalkeeper. Domian made a play on the ball and was able to kick it over the goalie’s head and into the net for the state championship.

“You put too much pressure on St. Dominic’s backs, it opens you up in the middle, so it was a fine line we were trying to ride back and forth a little bit waiting for opportunities when the ball got in the right place,” Jackson head coach Zack Walton said. “Then we could press, but if it wasn’t we were trying to sit and just play solid defense. I think the second half we got the ball a little bit better possession at times and tried to find some openings on them a little bit.

“Right before [Domian’s goal] what was huge is Wil Essner steps up and wins that head ball for us. It put them in a bind and a ball they have to try to deal with that was going to be in an awkward spot. You put a little pressure on them knowing that it’s overtime and put pressure on them with Domian running at them — a little bit of pressure on some people causes them to panic.

“Domian pounced on it pretty fast and was able to lift it over the keeper’s head in the back of the net for a state championship. That was a great finish — I mean really that was a great touch by Chalon. It was just a high-quality finish by a really good player.”

The third and final Indian to earn Class 4 All-State honors was senior goalkeeper Luke Mirly, who recorded his 14th shutout of the season in the win with a total of four saves. Mirly was named second team all-state as St. Dominic’s goalie senior Will Nicholson, who allowed the one goal at state, earned Class 4 Goalkeeper of the Year.

Helping Mirly secure the shutout were defenders such as seniors Devin Reiminger, Jake Sauerbrunn and juniors Drew Nugent and Jacob Simmons. Both Reiminger and Sauerbrunn will play soccer collegiately along with Tyson White as they all signed with Mineral Area College in Park Hills.

“St. Dominic is an amazing team, and they have some really talented players there and are really a well-coached team,” Walton said. “When you’re playing against really good teams, your defense has to be stellar. I thought our defense did a phenomenal job keeping those guys shutout for that long — they were really determined.”

Jackson also relied on playing team defense with as many as eight to 10 players dropping back to play defense. This made the Indians midfielders like Essner, White and juniors Mason Grindstaff and Brayden Stowe have to play both offense and defense for the entirety of the match.

“I’m just so proud of those boys,” Coach Walton said. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work, and to see all of that pay off for them makes me extremely excited and proud of those boys. They never gave up — they kept grinding and played as hard as they could all the way through. We felt like we had a pretty good game plan on how we wanted to approach these teams. Our big thing was let’s defend and keep people out of the back of our net and wait for opportunities.”

The last Class 4 All-State honor for Jackson was awarded to Coach Walton as he was officially named the Class 4 Coach of the Year (Public). This is actually Walton’s second state championship coaching at Jackson since his first was with the boys golf team back in the spring of 2019.

This season not only did Jackson win state with Walton at the helm, but the team also won the SEMO Conference Championship and its fourth Class 4 District 1 Championship in the last five seasons.

Along with the Indians winning their state title in overtime, they also won the district title in double overtime, the quarterfinal in double overtime and semifinal in double overtime.

“That’s determination right there,” Coach Walton said. “They’re just determined to win those games and never give up. Never think you’re out of a game and never think you’ve got a game won. You just have to keep battling all the way through.

“The Northwest game was a different type of pressure because we had already beaten them 3-0 this year. You don’t want to lose that game, so for those boys to come in there and keep battling that first overtime [playoff] game in a big rivalry game started it off for us.

“Pressing on to the next game where we’re down 2-0 in the first half against Lindbergh, we’re able to score one right before half to make it 2-1. Shutting them down in the second half really said a lot for our defense. I think our defense grew a lot in that game and their confidence, too. … They just believed in themselves.”

Domian scored the game winner in a 1-0 contest against Northwest for the district championship as fellow junior Deonta Blair scored the lone goal of the match against Chaminade in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals against Park Hill, Essner headed the ball in for a goal off a free kick by Sauerbrunn to give Jackson the 2-1 win. Domian scored the first goal of the match in the second minute.

As for the Indians 3-2 win over Lindbergh for their first sectional victory in 10 years, Grindstaff scored the first goal as Stowe scored off a free kick by Sauerbrunn. Scoring the third and final, game-winning goal with three minutes left in the match was Sauerbrunn off another free kick.

“I’ve said it multiple times this year that we’ve got too many good players not to score goals when we get opportunities,” Coach Walton said. “It showed this entire postseason — it wasn’t one guy scoring every single goal for us. … We had multiple guys getting in on the back post and getting us opportunities whether it was getting off a cross or being on the end of it and scoring for us.”

Not only was this state championship victory historic for Jackson but also for all of the largest classification schools outside of Kansas City and St. Louis. No team outside of these metro areas has ever won a state title in the biggest class.

“Winning a state title for your program is huge — that’s a huge stepping stone and something that everyone wants to accomplish for every program whatever class you’re in,” Coach Walton said. “It’s a huge step for the program to know that we had a kid on the team [Devin Reiminger] whose dad [Todd Reiminger] was on the first inaugural team [1988] when he was a freshman.

“Now his son is playing on the team and winning a state title is a cool thing there, too. I saw a former player of mine Jeremy Balsman put out there on one of the social medias that said he was a part of the first-ever district championship that Jackson won. That was like in 1998, so he thought it was kind of cool to see the first-ever district championship and now the first-ever state championship.

“Just seeing the program grow over the years is kind of cool.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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