Before Pembroke Hill began play in the Missouri Class 2 boys soccer playoffs last week, coach Matthew Pritchett told his players to ignore their season record — an ugly 8-13-3 mark.
All that mattered, he insisted, was the team was getting key players back for the postseason.
Thad Blevins headlined that list. And with good reason.
Blevins scored a pair of goals and helped the Raiders defeat O’Hara 4-0 in a sectional match Tuesday at Pembroke Hill. The Raiders will play St. Pius X on Saturday with a trip to the Class 2 state tournament on the line.
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Blevins tore his MCL in the second game of the season. He returned from the injury only three weeks ago — but he has hardly missed a beat.
“I worked hard because I wanted to get back fast,” Blevins said. “I didn’t want to miss the playoffs.”
Blevins scored twice in the first half, when Pembroke Hill built a 3-0 lead. Kieffer DeMayo also scored in the first half. Marko Jovanovic added the fourth goal with 12 minutes remaining.
Together, they put Pembroke Hill one match away from its first state-tournament appearance since 2011, when it fell 1-0 to Springfield Catholic in the Class 1 final.
The Raiders, 11-13-3, are the only team still alive in Class 2 with a losing record — a product of its early-season injuries and its traditionally tough schedule. The latter is paying dividends now.
“The key for us as coaches was to keep them positive because we’re going to take some beatings with our schedule,” Pritchett said. “But in the end, I contribute a lot of how we’re playing now to the competition we saw this year.”
To reach Sam McDowell, call 816-234-4869 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @SamMcDowell11.