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Tigers, Little Giants eye regional rematch

TISKILWA — Princeton will play host to a strange alignment of teams for a 1A boys soccer regional tournament beginning Tuesday at the Tiskilwa soccer pitch.

Princeton welcomes neighbor DePue, who will make the 15-mile trek to Tiskilwa.

The other two teams, Coal City and Wilmington, hail from the Interstate 8 Conference, making an average trip of 79.5 miles to Tiskilwa. Both are less than 26 miles from a regional site at Herscher.

“It is a different regional with Coal City and Wilmington, but when they moved the Peoria regional into our sectional I thought we could get those two teams,” PHS coach Jason Bird said.

Regional play gets underway at 5 p.m. Tuesday with Princeton facing Coal City. Their game will be followed at 7 p.m. with DePue vs. Wilmington.

The host Tigers take the No. 1 seed into the regionals on the strength of a 15-3-5 record and being the defending champions, having won the Rock Island Alleman Regional in 2012. However, PHS coach Jason Bird thinks No. 2 DePue has to be the favorite.

“I know they got the two seed, but I see them as the team to beat,” he said.

The Little Giants, who possess a program-best 12-3 record, are up for the challenge, having lost to Princeton 4-3 in double overtime in last year’s regional semifinals.

The Little Giants have a high-powered offense led by senior scoring ace Carlos Acosta, who has 122 career goals. Defensively, DePue has outscored its opponents 76-13, pitching 10 shutouts along the way.

“Yes, we think we have an excellent shot at the regional this year,” DePue coach Tim Stevens said. “After last year’s defeat against Princeton in the semi-final double overtime game, we would love a chance to avenge what we consider a lost opportunity. However, it is important to take it one game at a time because so much is unknown with all of the opponents in this regional.

“Nobody has any head to head game results data so it makes it extremely hard to make a prediction. We do know that we have a strong team that is capable of playing at a high level, and if we prepare properly and take it one game at a time we will be able to accomplish our goal to win a regional title and hopefully challenge for a section title as well.”

One stat that stands out for Bird is his team’s assist total.

We have 71 assists. That tells me we have a lot of guys involved in our scoring chances,” he said.

The regional champ advances to the Mendota Sectional to face the winner from the Indian Creek Regional at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23. Mendota (7-11-2) is the top seed at Indian Creek. PHS lost to HBR 7-1 in the sectional semifinals at Mendota last year.

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