CLAYTON • Priory's game against Westminster in the championship of the Class 2 District 5 boys soccer tournament Thursday had all the ingredients of an upset.
The game at Centene Stadium was played in a gusty mist. Priory, which had outscored opponents by a whopping 97-4 and had already whipped Westminster twice, missed several scoring chances. And with each missed opportunity, Westminster seemed to gain confidence and momentum.
But Jeff Hopson's goal nine minutes into the second half restored order and Priory held on for the 1-0 victory. Priory (23-0 and No. 1 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings) will host St. Francis Borgia in a sectional match Tuesday.
"We hit some posts, shot some wide, and we got in each other's way," Priory coach John Mohrmann said. "A couple of times in the first half because we weren't scoring goals, we started hanging our heads a bit."
Hopson's 18th goal of the season came off a feed from Andrew Rhodes. Hopson wasted no time, launching a left-footed shot from 35-yards past a diving Westminster goalkeeper Travis Ralls.
"I got a good lay-off from Rhodes," Hopson said. "I took a good shot, and it went in."
The goal tilted the field back in Priory's favor and ended 49 minutes of brewing frustration.
The Rebels dominated the first half of play, outshooting Westminster 7-2 and earning four corner kicks to none.
But Priory couldn't break through. James Pieper, Rhodes and Hopson all had quality chances that missed the mark.
And Ralls stood tall for Westminster (12-13), making a save on a Sam Newman chance and coming off his line several times to break up Priory scoring chances.
"Our defense, they were composed," Westminster coach Dan Legters said. "We talked about that they were going to get chances, but if they score, they were going to score because of something they created, not because of something we gave them. That shot was a great shot. There was nothing you could do."
Priory appeared to score with 10 minutes left in the first half. Peter Reitz's free kick bounced off the cross bar and onto the foot of Kyle Martin, who put it in the net.
The officials initially signaled Priory goal, but Mohrmann had the best angle of the ball and told the officials that it had deflected off the cross bar and off the football cross bar immediately above the net. The ball was ruled out of play and the score was scratched.
"You don't want to score like that," Mohrmann said.
Westminster's best chance of the first half and game came midway through the first half off of a Michael Dudley free kick, but Priory goalkeeper Jack Schwartz made the save.
After dominating play in the first half, Westminster appeared to find its legs to start the second half. The Wildcats had more ball control and were pushing the ball into Priory territory more consistently, before Hopson broke through.
"We kept on having scoring chances," Hopson said. "I knew it would come eventually. We had to keep coming at them."
Priory hasn't allowed a goal since Oct. 10 and has surrendered scores in only two games this season. And as the Rebels advance this postseason, the expectations continue to grow, but Rhodes said the team remains focused on its primary goal.
"I guess we're expected to come out and score all these goals," Rhodes said. "We just want to play good soccer and the goals will come."