Mendota captures first-ever sectional soccer title

Posted 10/27/21

CHILLICOTHE – Three years ago, Mendota had its heart broken by neighbor Earlville-Leland-Paw Paw in its quest for the first sectional soccer championship in school history.

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Mendota captures first-ever sectional soccer title


CHILLICOTHE – Three years ago, Mendota had its heart broken by neighbor Earlville-Leland-Paw Paw in its quest for the first sectional soccer championship in school history. Two years ago, Quincy Notre Dame rolled over Mendota in the Raiders’ defense of their state championship the year before. This year, it all fell into place for the Trojans.

Riding a 22-game unbeaten streak into a rematch with Quincy Notre Dame in the Chillicothe IVC Class 1A Sectional, the Trojans were not to be denied by the highly-touted Raiders as they held off a late-game push for a 3-2 victory to secure that elusive sectional title on Oct. 23 at Chillicothe. The win propelled Mendota into the Bloomington Central Catholic Supersectional where they played host Central Catholic on Tuesday night for a chance at a trip to the state tournament.

The Trojans were the aggressor out of the gate and tested Notre Dame goalkeeper Ethan Sparrow with several good scoring opportunities through the first 15 minutes of the game. Mendota was finally able to get a shot past the goalie when Johnathan Cortez floated a kick from about 60 feet that just got over the fingertips of the leaping Sparrow and sank into the back of the net at the 22:56 mark of the first half.

The half ended with Mendota clinging to that 1-0 advantage.

The Trojans padded their lead with just under 13 minutes gone in the second half when Ricky Orozco took a nice feed from Yahir Diaz and booted in a one-timer to make the score 2-0.

Mendota kept attacking the Notre Dame zone and had an excellent opportunity to go up by three goals, but a rifle shot off the foot of Diaz banged off the pipe less than two minutes after Orozco’s tally.

The score remained the same as minutes continued to tick off the clock before the Raiders finally got on the board, when off of a corner kick, Notre Dame’s Logan Zanger snuck a header shot past Mendota goalie Manny Trejo to cut the Trojan lead in half with 21:08 left in the contest.

Eight minutes later, Notre Dame had a tremendous opportunity to tie the score when Mendota was called for a foul on a reckless tackle inside the box, which resulted in a penalty kick by the Raiders’ Tanner Anderson. But Anderson’s free shot at the goal was turned away when Trejo had great anticipation of Anderson’s offering and dove to his left to stop the shot from penetrating the goal.

“Trejo came up big with that penalty kick save,” noted Mendota coach Nick Myers.

Still hanging on to a perilous one-goal lead, Diaz used some fancy footwork and dribbled between two Notre Dame defenders to a clear shot at the goal, and Mendota’s all-time leading goal scorer fired a shot past the diving Sparrow to make it 3-1 with 8:23 left.

“The second half was a long 40 minutes,” said Myers. “I still didn’t feel safe after Diaz punched in that goal.”

Myers had reason to feel squeamish as Notre Dame, which excels at converting corner kicks, got another chance with 5:30 left in the game. The kick sailed in toward a throng of players in front of the goal and deflected off of Cayge Hughes’s head and into the net to make it a 3-2 game. That second goal by Notre Dame was the first time all season that an opponent has scored more than one goal against the Trojans.

Mendota (23-0) went into slow-down mode after that, trying to keep the ball away from Notre Dame (16-6-3) and chew off precious minutes, and it was able to do just that in securing its first-ever sectional championship.

“Notre Dame threw everything they had at us,” added Myers. “We had to defend today, and we were outstanding. It was a total team effort.

“The guys have wanted this since 2019 when we lost to them. We knocked out one of the top teams in the state and I couldn’t be prouder of our effort.”


Mendota made it to the championship game after shutting out Peoria Christian, 3-0, in the semifinals on Oct. 19.

Cortez, Orozco and Jasiel Watson had the Trojan goals, with Diaz and Orozco picking up assists.