Burlington’s Korbin King (left) battles for control of the ball with a Fort Atkinson player the Oct. 19 WIAA regional game at Fort Atkinson. The Demons won, 3-2, to notch their first playoff victory since 2005. (Photo by Mike Ramczyk)

Burlington soccer team captures first playoff victory since 2005

 

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

This one was special.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock Oct. 19 at Fort Atkinson High School and the Burlington boys soccer squad made history with a 3-2 playoff victory, several players walked over to the corner and enjoyed a big, group hug.

They all locked arms and walked over to their sideline, jubilant with wide smiles, high fives and the satisfaction of doing something that hasn’t been done since some of them were babies, or even not born yet.

In fact, the 12 seniors were about 2 years old in 2005, when Burlington beat Waterford, 1-0, in overtime for the program’s last playoff victory.

For the strong senior class that vowed to turn things around when many of them started on varsity as freshmen in 2018, the countless hours of futsal, club ball and summer leagues in the offseason finally paid off.

Could it get any better for the 11-5-3 Demons?

“No,” said senior captain Drew Stutzman, who could barely contain his excitement after the game. “I know we haven’t had a winning record since 2011. I’m ecstatic. After every goal, I was screaming. The guys were all happy. It’s just the simple stuff at the end. Ethan (Nienhaus) blocked a corner, and we just went off.”

The Demons bowed out of postseason play in the regional final Saturday with a 3-0 loss to Oregon, but the loss failed to take the shine off a strong season for the Burlington program.

Burlington head coach Jake Cacciotti had no idea the Demons hadn’t won a playoff game since 2005, but he knew it was a long time.

He is happy for this senior class.

“It was as good or better than we thought,” Cacciotti said. “It’s been a long time. I just told the guys in our huddle. Especially for these seniors, they’ve been working for four years. They came in a little differently because they started as freshmen. They keep putting in that work year after year.”

Stutzman said the Demons got fired up in the 46th minute when the Blackhawks opened the scoring off a penalty kick. The players thought the Fort player simply fell down on purpose to get the call and got it, but that motivated the Demons.

Two minutes later, Ben Graham took on a few guys and finished with his left foot for a goal in the top corner, and in the 67th minute, Burlington took a 2-1 lead when Kolton Krueger was in the box and scored off a nice touch from Graham, who benefitted from a strong throw-in from senior Brad Roe.

“Their team kind of started talking right away after their first goal, and we fired up and were like, ‘Alright, let’s win this game,’” Stutzman said.

Then, in the 67th minute, Brady Marchese, who usually plays right back but has played forward the last few games, scored his third goal in as many games as he bolted down the left side and boomed one past several Fort defenders into the left side of the net.

Burlington took a commanding 3-1 lead.

In the final 12 minutes, Fort cut it to 3-2 in the 71st, but Burlington goalie Casey Sommers came up with two huge saves as he had to leave his area and go one-on-one to thwart scoring chances.

Sommers finished with six saves.

“It feels amazing,” Marchese said after the game. “It feels really good. My goal felt really good. I just kind of did what I did, and it worked out.”

“I’m really pumped and excited, because I know we’ve all been working really hard,” Krueger added. “All of these years of getting our butts whooped in these regional games, and now it’s our turn to get back at them.”

Marchese and Krueger said the guys wanted to leave it all on the field for the playoffs, and they really picked each other up.

The Demons, who earned a slight upset as the No. 9 seed over No. 8 Fort Atkinson, earned a matchup Saturday with top-seeded Oregon (14-0-2), which is ranked No. 2 in the state in Division 2.

Stutzman added that the defense was a unit Tuesday. He said the Demons have been clicking lately.

“It clicked when we beat Westosha (Oct. 12), and now it just feels like we’re playing real soccer,” he said. “Everything just feels more fluid, and it’s more fun to play.”

For Cacciotti, who had to speak up over a loud, celebrating group of Demons, anything moving forward is icing on the cake.

“We’ll celebrate somehow,” he said. “We’ve got a couple days before Oregon on Saturday. We’ll go have some fun, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Demons won their final regular season game, 2-1, Oct. 14 at Milton.