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story.lead_photo.caption Fulton freshman midfielder Christian Mahoro (left) tries to gain possession of the ball against Pleasant Hill sophomore Ayden Jackson during Tuesday night's Class 2 state quarterfinal matchup at the high school athletic complex. The Hornets' season ended in a 2-1 loss to the Roosters in overtime. Photo by David Shawley/Special to the Fulton Sun

The Fulton Hornets soccer team could not extend its extraordinary season.

Senior Evan Burns accounted for both Pleasant Hill goals, including the game-winner in the 13th minute of overtime to send the Roosters to a 2-1 win over Fulton in the Class 2 state quarterfinals Tuesday night at the high school athletic complex.

The Hornets — who reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2004 — finished with a 16-7 record. Pleasant Hill (16-4-2) will advance to face MICDS (11-3) in the Class 2 state semifinals Saturday.

"I told the guys, I said, 'You have to understand you just went toe-to-toe with the No. 4-ranked team in the state and I really think you should have beat them,'" Fulton head coach Joel Henley said. "Then I said, 'If you would have won this game, you get to face the No. 1 team in the state.'

"Our road to the (state) championship was brutal, but I still can't be more proud of them. Tonight is one that — in some ways — I feel like we let it slip away, but in no way am I disappointed in the way our guys played."

The contest appeared to be headed for a second overtime when Burns freed himself from a pair of Hornet defenders in front of the net and slipped a shot past senior goalkeeper Logan Vanden Bosch to end it for the Roosters.

Burns — who entered the night with a dazzling 59 goals on the season — also gave Pleasant Hill an early edge when he scored just 2 minutes into the contest. In between that goal and the game-winner, Fulton was able to restrict Burns for the better part of 90 minutes.

"He's really good at dribbling — we found that out early, early in the game, and then found it out there (at the end)," Henley said. "The dude got loose twice and he beat us. When a guy can do that, you can't hold your head down.

"I thought we defended him well. We ended up trying to really stay on him and not let him dribble at us. When he can dribble at you, that's when he was really dangerous. I feel like our guys really learned and did that — they quit letting him dribble and I think we doubled and tripled him a lot."

The Hornets pulled even when junior forward Alban Dervishi provided their only goal in the 12th minute of the first half. Dervishi took a pass from freshman forward Jayden Ayers, came down the left side and drilled a shot past Roosters senior goalkeeper Jackson Petersen into the right side of the net.

Fulton finished with just nine shots overall, including only five on goal. Henley lamented a handful of scoring chances that the Hornets weren't able to convert.

"We kept trying to go down the middle and Pleasant Hill did a really good job of clogging that middle," Henley said. "Their weak area was the outside backs, and we really wanted to exploit that, and we went away from what we were doing.

"I think if we had done that a few more times, I think we would have been a lot better off."

The Roosters piled up 34 shots, but Vanden Bosch kept the game in a standoff by logging 22 saves in a sparkling effort.

"I told him that was probably one of the best performances I've seen by a goalkeeper, ever," Henley said. "I thought he played well above his years of experience, he saved our bacon a whole bunch of times.

"I really feel like he played probably the best game he's played all year. The saves that he had tonight, he was absolutely incredible, he was on fire."

Henley noted that the soccer program's progress moving forward will be measured by these Hornets and their revival after finishing 1-23 in 2019.

"They're a special group and they're going to be remembered by Fulton soccer for a long time," Henley said. "I can't say enough about this senior group and how special they are, and how good they've been and how hard they've worked to get to where they were this year.

"They've set a standard, and the underclassmen and the guys coming in, they have to live up to that standard and really try to raise (it). That's pretty dang hard to go have (the state) quarterfinals as your standard every year now."


Ryan Boland can be reached at (573) 826-2422, or on Twitter @FultonSunSports.

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