Collinsville High School Athletics


Infusion of youth has Collinsville dreaming big as playoffs begin


Stl Today | 10/18/2021


COLLINSVILLE — One of the most talented and consistent boys soccer teams in the area also is one of the youngest.

With six sophomores and two juniors in their starting lineup, the Collinsville Kahoks have reeled off 13 consecutive wins, and last week they celebrated an outright Southwestern Conference title.

Coach Rob Lugge hopes there's more on the horizon as Collinsville (17-3-2) takes aim at its second state tournament berth in the last four years. The Kahoks have won four state titles, most recently in 1992.

"We have the qualities to be successful in the postseason," Lugge said in a cautionary tone. "But in high school postseason, anything can happen. There are a lot of good teams in the state of Illinois, so you're going to have to play your best in those final seven games to make it to the state final.

"I do think they're ready to play their best every single day."

Collinsville, seeded first of eight teams participating in the Alton and Edwardsville regionals, opens the Class 3A playoffs with a game against Alton (1-17) at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Public School Stadium in Alton. A victory would send the Kahoks to the regional championship at 5 p.m. Saturday against Belleville East (7-11-1) or Quincy (11-8-3).

The Kahoks will host the sectional, and if they survive the regional, they likely will be staring down a semifinal matchup Oct. 26 against tough SWC opponents Edwardsville (14-3-3) or O'Fallon (11-6).

Lugge said the Kahoks have been preparing for this moment since the fall 2020 season was moved to spring 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak prompted the Illinois High School Association to cancel the postseason.

"Not much was good in the COVID year," Lugge said. "But we used it as kind of like a college spring season. We started four or five freshmen every game just to get them experience. We knew they were talented enough to be successful, even at a young age. So far, it's worked in our favor."

Collinsville sealed the conference championship Oct. 12 with a 3-1 victory over O'Fallon. Lugge started seniors Jackson Parrill in goal and Aidan Hensler and Alex Lorsbach on defense. Everyone else was an underclassman: juniors Jimmy Crowder and Bryson Bode and sophomores Dane Compton, Trey Peterson, Adam Reiniger, Landon Mahat, Sam Garofalo and Jaylen Wade. Reiniger had two goals and Crowder scored on a penalty kick. Peterson and Wade had assists.

Yes, the younger players have rewarded Lugge for his faith in them.

"It's been a great experience," said Compton, who along with Mahat, Peterson and Reiniger was a starter as a freshman. "There's a bunch of great guys on this team. We all know each other well, we bond together well and we've been killing it. It's all come together. We just need to stay locked in, keep our energy and not let anything distract us."

Parrill, one of seven seniors on the squad, said being one of the elder statesmen has made for an enjoyable ride.

"It's been real fun playing with a bunch of young guys," Parrill said. "I feel like a parent out there on the field sometimes, having to babysit. But overall, it's been a really fun experience this season.

"Once we started on our winning streak, that's when I knew this was going to be something special. I hope we can keep it going through the postseason. We have a good bond with each other, and that feeds into it."

Boys soccer spotlight: Infusion of youth has Collinsville dreaming big as playoffs begin
Area Boys soccer rankings, Week 7
Box: Triad 9, Jerseyville 1
Columbia survives early goal to defeat Gibault in regional final
Recap: Ladue downs Clayton
Lugge compliments the senior class for helping galvanize the team. Parrill, Hensler and Lorsbach are on the field from the opening kickoff, but classmates Kai Serrano, Gavin Null, Reid Bicanic and Aiden Kaufman take time on the field as they can get it.

"It says a lot about our senior class that they're able to be supportive of a bunch of younger kids who are on the field," Lugge said. "The guys on the bench who are a little older, they're the most supportive guys we have. They want everybody to be successful. The team in itself, it's fun to watch them support each other."

Lugge recalled a special moment Thursday night in the Kahoks' regular-season finale, a 6-0 victory over visiting St. Mary's, when Bicanic culminated the scoring with his first varsity goal.

"The bench exploded," Lugge said. "Everybody was so happy for him. That typifies the year."

There have been many other highlights, of course, including a 3-2 win at Edwardsville on Sept. 21 in which Bode, Mahat and Wade scored goals. It was Collinsville's first victory at Edwardsville since Sept. 25, 2008.

Crowder, meanwhile, had a penalty kick in the Kahoks' season opener that salvaged a 1-all tie against Triad, a Class 2A state-champion contender. Crowder ranks third on the team with seven goals, behind Reiniger (17) and Wade (eight), and he is one of 19 players who have scored.

"It's been an awesome experience," said Crowder, who remained upbeat after nine games even when Collinsville was a pedestrian 4-3-2. "I believed in us pretty much from the get-go. We started out slow, but when we started winning, we started scoring (more) goals and moving the ball well. We've figured out how to play. We have a good defense, a good center mid and players who can put it in the back of the net."

Mahat is a part of the midfield mix that has been instrumental in the Kahoks boosting their scoring output. Collinsville had 11 goals in its first seven games, but during its winning streak that began Sept. 15, it has outscored foes 48-9.

"We talked all summer about what we were going to do moving forward," Mahat said. "We're just following that goal. The chemistry is good. Our captains, Alex, Jackson and Aidan, and the (other) seniors are helping us a lot with staying confident and making sure we get things done. It would be more difficult trying to do things our own way. Things aren't like that. We're all together."

Lugge, a 2000 graduate of O'Fallon, sensed his team jelled after a 1-0 loss at home to St. Louis power CBC on Sept 11. It was the most recent blemish on the Kahoks' season.

"That was the turning point in our season," he said. "We lost to a really good team, but we played well and we were able to defend well and move the ball. While we didn't score goals, we were in it until the end. That gave us confidence to help us be successful for the rest of the year."

At the same time, a nagging problem was beginning to bother Lugge. Were the Kahoks going to be able to score enough goals?

While goal-scoring always is a concern for coaches, Lugge is sleeping better these days. Offense is coming from all over the field.

"It's definitely picked up, which has been great," he said. "It's kind of saved me a lot of stress, because I was really worried about that. But once we stopped focusing on the goal-scoring struggles and improving the back line, then the goals started to come.

"We were focused on the wrong thing. We were focusing on our struggles and our inability to score when we should have been focused on our success on the back line and building from there."

More than anything, Lugge said he's having fun. He said seeing the blend of talent come together has been magical. Click here to read full article