A tentative start helped land The Dunham School in a hole it could not climb out of Friday evening in Division III boys soccer playoff action.
St. Thomas Aquinas High scored twice in the first 14 minutes and went on to post a 3-0 bidistrict round win over Dunham at The Chapel in the Oaks.
Christian Boutwell and Reece Durham put St. Thomas Aquinas (5-8) on top 2-0. Spencer Magliolo added a goal with 15 minutes to play handing the Tigers an insurmountable deficit.
“We’ve been down a lot this season, but it came together tonight,” STA coach John Cox said.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dunham and what they accomplished, but we came out and played maybe the best match I’ve seen, and I’ve been here 13 years.”
St. Thomas Aquinas advance into regional round play, where the Falcons will face University High, a 7-0 winner over Ouachita Christian.
Dunham (11-6-1), which began playing varsity soccer in 2008, was hosting its first playoff contest after capturing the District 6 title, another program first.
The unfamiliar territory proved to be a hindrance as the Tigers struggled to maintain their focus.
“We played not to lose in the first half,” second-year Dunham coach Willie Davis said. “It was the first time being in the position where we were the higher seed, and we played scared. We didn’t want to lose the game, and we played that way.”
St. Thomas Aquinas finished with nine shots on goal compared to Dunham’s three. The Tigers didn’t settle down until late in the first half but had already fallen behind 2-0.
Boutwell put the Falcons on top in the eighth minute after chasing down a pass into the Dunham penalty box. Goalkeeper Parker Ferris charged the ball, but lost the battle with Boutwell, who gained control to the right of an open net before scoring.
Durham added his goal in the 14th minute off of a corner kick from the right side. The kick was placed in front of the goal where Durham put a clean header into the right side of the net.
Dunham’s only shot on goal for the half came with a minute left. Miguel Vilas’ shot from the top of the penalty box was stopped by Falcons’ goalkeeper Kameron Eckland, one of his two saves.
Dunham possessed the ball for most of the second half’s opening 20 minutes. The Tigers nearly converted a corner kick into a goal in the 49th minute.
Eckland stepped up to grab Julian LaPrairie’s right side kick, but the ball got behind him coming dangerously close to the goal line before Durham cleared it out.
Magliolo’s goal put the game effectively out of reach in the 65th minute. From right of the goal, Brad Leon centered to Magliolo at the top of the penalty box. Magliolo put his kick in the right side of the net for a 3-0 lead.
“They’re a great team, but we just capitalized on our chances,” Cox. said. “That’s the name of the game.”
Eckland blocked Will Morris’ shot in the 70th minute to thwart the Tigers’ best scoring chance in the closing minutes.
The loss put an end to Dunham’s most successful boys soccer season to date, but left the Tigers wanting more.
“When I first came here (Dunham) had finished 0-13,” Davis said. “Last year, we finished second in district and made the playoffs.
“This year we won our district so hopefully we’re on the rise.”