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Birdsong's vision comes true as Althoff advances past Mater Dei in 1A sectional final

Birdsong's vision comes true as Althoff advances past Mater Dei in 1A sectional final

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FREEBURG — There's not a shred of doubt in Brody Bugger's mind. 

The junior midfielder for the Althoff boys soccer team is certain his coach has visions. 

"For sure, he's a prophet," Bugger said.

Crusaders coach Skip Birdsong told his team earlier this week where its first goal would come from Friday against Mater Dei in the Class 1A Freeburg Sectional final.

And at the 26-minute mark, Birdsong's words became reality when Bugger scored the opening goal of a 2-0 victory for the Crusaders' first sectional title since 2018. 

Althoff (22-4-2), which increased its program-best victory total, advanced to play host to either Beardstown (16-1-2) or Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (15-7-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 1A Althoff Super-Sectional.

Birdsong predicted Althoff's first goal would come from close range against Mater Dei (16-6-2).

"They're a very aggressive team and very good in the air," Birdsong said. "When you have teams like that, the balls that normally go in happen to be inside the six."

Althoff peppered Mater Dei's defense for 25 minutes before Bugger broke through a scrum after a free kick and buried a shot past sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Weir. 

Bugger looked down and saw where he was — inside the six-yard box.

"I may stop on the way home to pick up a lotto ticket and see what happens," Birdsong said.

Bugger's 18th goal of the season was what the Crusaders needed after their onslaught against Mater Dei's defense continued to be turned away by Weir, who finished the season with 14 shutouts.

"They snuck in that first goal and it wasn't pretty, but it ended up in the back of the net," Mater Dei coach James Arnold said. "That's all it took to break us."

Early in the second half, junior Ryan Myatt added an insurance goal to push Althoff's lead to 2-0. 

Weir had six first-half saves against 13 Althoff shots and eight saves for the game. 

"He's a special goalie," Arnold said. "He's going to be the building block for next year."

The two-goal lead was more than enough as Althoff earned its 16th shutout.

Althoff now stands one victory from its first state tournament appearance since 1999.

"This is great, but we're not done," Althoff senior goalkeeper Tyler Tieman said. "We still have three more games to play."

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