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CLAYTON • A showdown between a pair of unbeaten boys soccer teams Monday night didn't decide a thing.

But a 3-3 draw between Clayton High and Alton Marquette made it clear why each team has played more than a month without losing a match.

Junior midfielder Noah McClintock tapped in a cross from Stephen Hasse with 1 minute and 56 seconds to play, pulling Marquette level in the opening Pool 3 game for both teams in the Sullivan/Walsh Division of the 64th CYC/Bob Guelker Soccer Tournament.

Each team led at Clayton High's Gay Field and there were three ties, including the final result.

“Neither of us wanted to lose,” McClintock said. “Both teams, we were obviously hard competitors and we definitely didn't want that first loss of the season. We were all just battling as hard as we could and both teams did a good job of that.”

Clayton (8-0-1, No. 2 in STLhighschoolsports.com small school rankings) rallied into a 3-2 lead after trailing by a goal at halftime and was less than 120 seconds from handing No. 1 small school Marquette (9-0-4) its first loss since it was beaten 1-0 by Columbia on Sept. 27, 2017.

But McClintock's game-tying finish, in a sequence that started with a through ball by Trenton Dietiker, helped the Explorers push their unbeaten streak to 23 games. They were the Illinois Class 1A state champions last season, though they'll be in the 2A tournament this season when the playoffs begin in mid-October.

James Dulle scored Clayton's first goal in the opening half and assisted on Dillon Flynn's goal in the 53rd to give Clayton its first lead at 3-2. In between, senior Max Boeger scored on a wondrous 30-yard strike in the 46th minute for a 2-2 tie that turned the game's momentum.

That 3-2 edge almost held up thanks to four saves by Greyhounds junior goalkeeper Andrew Matheny in the second half, including a leaping stop of a long-range attempt by Hasse when the score was tied 2-2 in the 50th minute.

“On the field, you could feel the intensity,” Dulle said. “We both wanted to prove that we were better than each other. There was smack talk on the field. We were really going at it and everyone on the field was working as hard as they can. It's a testament that we tied 3-3, that we both can compete at the highest level.”

Even after McClintock's tying goal, Marquette senior goalkeeper Nick Hemann was forced into a save in the game's final minute as the Greyhounds pushed for a game-winning goal.

The tie gave both Marquette and Clayton two points in the tournament's Pool 3 standings. Timberland beat Lutheran South 1-0 in the opening game at Gay Field and leads the pool with five points.

In Tuesday's games, Marquette plays at Lutheran South at 5 p.m. and Clayton faces Timberland at 7:45 p.m. at Soccer Park. The pool wraps up Wednesday with Clayton playing Lutheran Soccer at 6 p.m. at Soccer Park and Marquette playing at Timberland at 7:45 p.m.

Five of the 18 teams will emerge from the combined division's six pools into elimination play that begins Thursday at Soccer Park.

“It's definitely a good new experience because we're used to our local teams we face,” McClintock said. “It's really nice, a fresh look at it.”

Chris Hartrich had one goal and one assist for the Explorers, his goal coming in the 19th minute off a Luke Atkinson assist for a 2-1 lead and just 30 seconds after Dulle had pulled the Greyhounds into a 1-1 tie.

Brett Terry scored the opening goal for the Explorers in the 10th minute by heading in the rebound off a sequence that began with a Hasse corner kick. 

Dulle nearly pulled the Greyhounds level in the 36th minute by chipping a close-range shot over Hemann, but Explorers center back Nick LaFata cleared the attempt just before it crossed the goal line.

“First of all, it was a great match. Definitely best attacking team we've faced all year,” Clayton coach Tom Redmond said. “You can tell they're a team that's well-coached. I was real proud of our guys the way we fought back twice. I really felt good when we took the lead. I sort of felt we were bending but not breaking. All in all, if you were a spectator you had to enjoy that match.”

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