Never, ever get comfortable against the Republic Tigers soccer team. Not if you’re top-seeded Carthage and you to tie the district championship game in the final minute of regulation. Not if you’re state-ranked Glendale and you grab the momentum with a second-half equalizer in the state quarterfinals. And not if you’re Harrisonville and you jump to a 2-0 lead in the Missouri Class 3 third-place game.
Saturday, Republic turned that 2-0 deficit against Harrisonville into a 3-2 victory. They did it despite being shut out for 136 minutes to start their final four weekend. And they started and finished their comeback with two more goals by Dylan Brown, whose spectacular game-winner in the 77th minute helped the Tigers cap their best season ever with one more win.
Despite being shut out in the first half, the Tigers played more aggressively Saturday than they had against Parkway Central in their Friday semifinal. Coach Kevin Hauck moved to a 4-3-3 formation, giving Brown more support up top and moving him to the right wing. The change opened up several opportunities throughout the first 40 minutes, but Republic couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I felt like all game we were doing a really good job. We were getting close to being able to put one in,” Hauck says. “We missed some really good opportunities, especially early in the game. We just needed something big to swing it in our favor. ”
Harrisonville got on the board in the 27th minute when Republic was called for an inadvertant handball in the box. Seth Weibusch scored to make it 1-0.
It remained that way until the 54th minute, when Connor Blentlinger spun 20 yards from the goal and fired home a shot past Republic goalie Dalton Ghan to give Harrisonville a 2-0 lead.
But it was just one minute later when Dylan Brown breathed new life into the Tigers. Armando Hurtado played the ball ahead to Brown, who slid the ball across the box from right to left, beating keeper Brody Pitts to cut the lead to 2-1. It was the first goal of the weekend for Republic, and it set up the late-game comeback.
“When that first goal went in, you could see all the energy from the boys just instantly raise, and from there on out we controlled the rest of the game,” Hauck says.
In the 75th minute, Harrisonville committed a foul in the goal box, setting up a Trenton Roetto penalty kick. Roetto fired it past Pitts to tie the score with just 4:49 showing on the clock.
From there, the Tigers dominated possession, and Brown delivered the final blow a little over a minute later. He took the ball about 40 yards from the goal on the right side, beat a man to the middle and cut upfield. Two more defenders closed on him, but he shook them off and ended up 18 yards from the goal. As one final defender and the Harrisonville keeper converged on him, Brown cut loose a shot that found the left back corner of the net, completing the comeback.
Brown wrapped up his career with 107 goals in just three seasons in Republic, smashing the school record. His 56 goals this season are tied for the fifth-most in Missouri history. His 2.33 goals per game are also tied for fifth-best in s season.
The win allowed Republic to finish its best season ever with a 24-5 record. In just the program’s eighth year, the Tigers set a record for most wins, for fewest losses, and for fewest goals allowed in a season. They also won a program-best 13 games in a row.