GLENWOOD — Glenwood coach Shane Keeling praised his squad’s teamwork in setting up scoring opportunities in a 4-1 Class 2A substate semifinal victory over Creston here Wednesday night.
Creston coach Jesus Rodriguez, meanwhile, said his players need to rely on each other a little more to create scoring opportunities against an opponent of the quality of the sixth-ranked Rams.
Glenwood (13-4) hosts ADM in a substate match Saturday for a state tournament berth. Unranked ADM (11-10) beat No. 11 Dallas Center-Grimes Wednesday, 2-1.
Creston ends its season at 9-7.
The Rams clung to a 1-0 lead in a defensive battle through the first 40 minutes. Five minutes into the second half it became a 2-0 margin, and a few minutes later Rodriguez made a decision to pull his goalkeeper, Alex Nielsen, and insert him as another scoring threat while Jake Miller took over in the goal.
Just before that happened, the Panthers jumped back into contention on a goal by Josh Sawtelle off an assist by Franky Martinez, after a nice advance down the right side by Trevor Frain.
Glenwood answered less than a minute later, however, on Payton Kalambokidis’ second goal to make it 3-1 with 17:33 remaining in the match.
That made the comeback tougher, and Tyler Jensen sealed the deal with a Glenwood breakaway goal with 11:31 left.
Keeling said the second goal by Kalambokidis was a huge momentum buster after the Panthers had closed it to 2-1.
“That was huge,” Keeling said. “I thought we responded well. All season we’ve known that at 2-0 you can’t be content, because if a team scores, they’re only one goal down and they have hope.”
Rodriguez said he took a chance moving Nielsen into the offensive field as a third forward because of the difficulty in scoring three times quickly against the Rams in a conventional alignment.
“There were still 19 minutes on the clock when we went to a 3-5-3 to get our numbers up there,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe if I had all of my back four, he (Jensen) wouldn’t have been that free to shoot.
“I gambled, but you have to do those things in these kind of games,” Rodriguez explained. “You can’t just sit back and lose 2-0 because it looks better and it’s close. You have to go down swinging, giving it your all. We came here to win.”
Nielsen was also important in the forward area, Rodriguez said, because Martinez, a starting forward, was sidelined late in the match with soreness from a quadriceps contusion suffered in a previous match.
“Alex, if he gets a chance to shoot, that shot is going to be dangerous,” Rodriguez said. “He has the strongest shot on the team. If he had a shot outside the 18, it would be dangerous.”
Keeling’s team owned a previous 3-0 victory over Creston. He scouted the Panthers’ substate victory at Winterset Monday.
“I told the guys that Creston is playing better,” Keeling said. “You definitely don’t want to take anything for granted this time of year. We needed to keep in mind that Creston is a physical team, and they very much like to flood one side, so we had to be careful about that.
“Before they get to midfield they like to find the feet of number seven (Conner Pals) who has 14 goals for them on the season and is a very good player,” Keeling added. “Their keeper is athletic. He’s a really solid kicker as well. They are stronger out of the air. We knew they would try to punt it deep and take it long. We had to be strong defensively against that.”
Coming off a 3-11 season, the Panthers advanced this campaign at 9-7.
“Our guys have nothing to be ashamed of,” Rodriguez said. “According to the stats at the beginning of the season, we shouldn’t be in this game. As the season went along, we deserved to be here. But we still need to improve more. We gained a lot of experience, but we still don’t quite have that control of the ball and the passing that Glenwood has in seeing opportunities for each other. This game measures where we’re at, and we will work on those things.”
Seniors in their last match for the Panthers Wednesday are Gage Cheers, Martinez, Sawtelle, Aaron Shaw and Kevin Pellman.
Glenwood 4, Creston 1
Creston (1) — Josh Sawtelle (Franky Martinez assist), 18:16 second half. Shots on goal — 9. Individual shots — Josh Sawtelle 3, Trevor Frain 2, McClain Haines 2, Brant Hudson 1, Conner Pals 1. Keeper saves — Alex Nielsen 18, Jake Miller 5. Cards — None.
Glenwood (4) — Payton Kalambokidis (Brandon Bichel assist), 10:55 first half; Colton McNeel (Daniel Leu assist), 35:35 second half; Kalambokidis, 17:33 second half; Tyler Jensen (Ross VanSlyke assist), 11:31 second half. Shots on goal — 19. Saves — Nicholas Frazee 3. Cards — None.