For the past two years, Oregon was a stumbling block in Elkhorn’s path to state, beating the Elks twice in shootouts in the sectional championship.
On Saturday, the Division 2 sectional hosts broke through with two early goals to beat the Panthers 2-0.
One year after graduating 17 players from a Division 2 state championship team, Oregon (14-7-1) put itself in position to earn a third straight state berth.
“This is a group of guys who had big goals and the only one they didn’t realize was getting back to state,” Oregon coach Chris Mitchell said. “I think this team accomplished more than a lot of people expected them to.”
Elkhorn (21-1), the top sectional seed, will play Brookfield Central on Friday, Nov. 8, in the state semifinals. Brookfield East and New Richmond will tangle in the other state semifinal.
The Elks got on the board when senior Ben Vogel scored off a corner kick by junior Gavino Perez in the 23rd minute.
“We knew they would be dangerous off set pieces,” Oregon senior Aaron Kluck said. “We run a zone on defense and there has been a few times where the clearance goes to the top of the 18-yard (box) and we don’t have anyone there. We can mark everybody. They put one through three or four guys. It’s unfortunate.”
Mitchell said it was a ball the Panthers looked to clear inside instead of outside.
“We just didn’t bring our best in the first half and they knew it,” he said. In the first half, Elkhorn was a step quicker.”
Elks senior Alec Birbaum added an insurance goal in the 39th minute.
“They are physical and that kind of took us off our game in the first half,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they did well in the state tournament.”
Oregon outshot Elkhorn 5-4, but the Elks finished with an 8-2 advantage in corner kicks. Panthers junior goalkeeper Coltrane LoBreglio had two saves.
“We did not let down and didn’t play as intimidated in the second half,” Mitchell said. “I’m proud of them.”
Oregon 2, Monona Grove 0
LoBreglio played a pivotal role in helping the Panthers post their 12th shutout of the season in the sectional semifinals Friday, Nov. 1, at McFarland High School.
It’s the second time this season the Panthers shut out the Silver Eagles (13-4-4).
With snow blending in with the ball, LoBreglio made a critical save on Isaac Becker’s penalty kick shot in the 15th minute. The stop by LoBreglio kept the game scoreless and fueled Oregon to the sectional championship.
“Cole made some humongous saves in the game to give us energy and momentum as a team,” Oregon junior Ben Statz said.
Moments later, Statz capitalized on a handball in the box, scoring on a penalty kick in the 25th minute to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“Once you get that first goal, everything starts flowing,” Statz said. “We played really well as a team.”
LoBreglio had seven saves, including a diving stop in the 56th minute that preserved the one-goal lead. The Panthers outshot the Silver Eagles 8-7 and had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks. Both teams had direct-kick opportunities over a wall of defenders in the first 11 minutes.
“We talked about how no one on our team had to have their best game of the year, but we all had to do our job,” Mitchell said. “MG is an explosive team. We talked about weathering the storm they would throw our way and we did.”
Monona Grove senior forward Will McDowell had a golden opportunity in the 50th minute, but his shot deflected off the crossbar.
Oregon junior Pat Brognano made a pass to the corner of the post and senior Collin Bjerke, a Drake University commit, scored in the 78th minute.
“I saw Pat dribbling inside and I made the run to the goal,” Bjerke said. “I knew he was going to play it to the corner. We have been starting to connect more on the field and read each other. Usually, I’m the one that plays him the ball.”
Badger South All-Conference
Bjerke and Coltrane LoBreglio were unanimous first-team all-conference selections.
Kluck and Ethan Vandermause were also first-team honorees. Brognano and Ben Schaefer were second-team picks.