By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – It was a semifinal on the bracket but Wednesday’s Class 1A Substate 6 match between Regina and Iowa Mennonite brought with it a championship feel.
It came complete with a championship type of ending.
Nick Pechous scored on a breakaway goal in the 69th minute to lift Class 1A third-ranked Regina to a 2-1 win over No. 11 Iowa Mennonite in an action packed substate semifinal at Regal Field.
The win was the third straight for Regina (12-5) and sends the Regals into the Substate 6 title match where they will host No. 15 Williamsburg on Saturday at Noon.
“We know that if we lose we are done so we have to come out with the same attitude every game that we want to win and we don’t want it to be our last game,” Pechous said. “We want to win the whole thing and we aren’t here to lose and be done.”
Regina defeated Iowa Mennonite 7-0 in the substate semifinals last season but was pushed to the limit on Wednesday by an IMS squad that entered riding a seven-match winning streak.
“They are a really good team,” Regina coach Rick Larew said of IMS. “Coach (Marcus) Miller is a really good coach and a number of years ago they had a lot of talent and they are back there at that level in terms of the talent and you get a bright coach and some talented kids and all of a sudden you have a squad.”
Regina took an early lead when sophomore Kieler Brown scored off a Pechous feed to open the scoring.
The goal was the 11th of the season for Brown, second on the team behind Pechous who scored his team-leading 16th goal in the second half.
“I was just running back side and no one was there,” Brown said. “They were helping in on Nick and he just played it through and there was no one there.”
Iowa Mennonite wouldn’t go away.
IMS tied the score on a free kick from 30 yards out by Isaiah Swantz and sophomore keeper Blake Bontrager came up with a pair of saves on point-blank Regina shots to keep the score 1-1 going to the half.
“We came into this game knowing that they were going to be a decent opponent and they came out better than I expected,” Pechous said. “They were a lot stronger, a lot faster than they were last year and had a better result last year but we will take a win every day of the week.”
The atmosphere and action continued to build after halftime.
Both teams had chances to take the lead in the opening eight minutes after halftime but Bontrager saved a Mason Welter shot from inside 10 yards and Cole Ours sailed a shot at an open net over the cross bar.
“We came out really strong but then we panicked and didn’t play the way that we wanted to play,” Larew said. “It’s contagious it’s almost like it’s some kind of infectious disease.”
Regina finally broke through in a wild sequence following a IMS free kick.
After Swantz fired a free kick high from 25 yards out Regina countered quickly as Mason Welter played a ball ahead to Pechous who broke free and was alone with Bontrager.
Pechous slipped a shot from the left side of the box into the right corner for what proved to be the match-clincher.
“It was just a good ball by Nate, great vision by Mason to find me and then we just focus on passing the ball to the back of the net with those one on one opportunities,” Pechous said. “I just placed it.”
Regina will be seeking its 10th consecutive state tournament appearance on Saturday when it hosts Williamsburg (10-5) in the Substate 6 title match at Noon.
Williamsburg advanced with a 2-1 win over Pella Christian on Wednesday.
“What I try to tell our kids is that for a number of years we have had a target on our backs and teams are going to bring their best games to us,” Larew said. “The thing I try to remind them is we are a good team but we aren’t good enough to win if we don’t play our best.”