Westminster OM returning to Final Four after commanding shutout of Collinsville

Published 8:24 am Friday, May 3, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – After a dominant first round win over Donoho just three days prior, the Westminster at Oak Mountain Knights kept their momentum going in the second round as they defeated the Collinsville Panthers 4-0 on Thursday, May 2 at The Westminster School at Oak Mountain.

With the win, the Knights will head back to Huntsville to compete in the Final Four for the second straight season.

Westminster started taking control from the opening minutes as the Knights won their first corner kick in the second minute before it was headed out.

A minute later, Collinsville got a free kick of its own but couldn’t take advantage.

Westminster then had a big five-minute stretch that included a Luke Likens cross into the box, a JD Waites shot over the goal and a pair of corner kicks that the wind blew behind the goal.

Charlie Krulak started to take over the offense for the nights as the next big chances came from his feet.

In the 13th minute, Krulak made a run across the right side and was fouled to win a free kick in favorable position next to the box, but the Panthers defended it well.

A couple of minutes after Sam Carter saved a Collinsville free kick, Krulak tried to get a short shot off the side of his foot in front of the goal, but it was unsuccessful.

That built towards the 18th minute when he struck at an unexpected time.

After a play by Knights attack looked like it had broken down, Krulak was alone atop the box with the ball bouncing upwards. He then loaded up and unleashed a full bicycle kick that went perfectly past the Panthers keeper and into the net for the opening goal.

With that shot of electricity sent through the Westminster home crowd, the Knights continued to control the match and sent multiple corner kicks and crosses Collinsville’s way over the next few minutes.

The Panthers then attempted to respond with a 25th minute free kick and a long shot in the 28th minute, but neither resulted in much and Westminster went back on the attack.

The Knights continued to find spots to punish Collinsville on the counterattack, but not many spots were bigger than the one they had in the 35th minute.

After Westminster won the ball in the attacking third, JD Waites made the pass to Andrew Cortez, who took the quick shot on the run to score and double up the Knights’ lead.

While the Knights had a pair of chances in the final minute of the half, they went back to the halftime huddle with a 2-0 lead.

Westminster went right back on the attack in the opening minutes of the second half as Aiden Gamble had a pair of chances before a 49th minute corner kick that saw a Waites cross lead to a shot that rocketed off the post.

However, Gamble’s next chance proved more fruitful as he collected the ball at the top of the box in the 50th minute, ran in along the left side and slipped in a shot to make the lead 3-0.

Lightning struck twice for the Knights later in the 52nd minute when Gamble made a move toward the middle of the box and fired to score his second goal in three minutes and put Westminster up 4-0.

Despite being up by four goals, the Knights continued to press the attack, but the Panthers settled in on defense and cleared or saved multiple chances down the stretch.

That included a big chance in the 61st minute when a cross gave Westminster an opportunity in front of an empty goal, but Collinsville cleared the ball before it could reach the goal line.

While the Panthers kept the Knights off the score sheet from there, they couldn’t capitalize on the other end as Westminster’s solid defensive performance continued.

Luke Likens kept up the pressure with a pair of chances in the final three minutes, including a header towards the keeper and a shallow shot.

The Knights control of the ball down the stretch helped ensure the shutout held until the finish and gave them the 4-0 win to advance to another Final Four.

Westminster will play in the Class 1A-3A semifinals on Wednesday, May 8 at 11 a.m. at Huntsville’s John Hunt Park against the Tanner Rattlers.