Shafi Shire had a sense of urgency. Playoff soccer will do that, especially for a senior.
“It was a great game,” Shire said. “It’s the playoffs so we have to play hard because this is what we’ve been working on all season.”
Shire and the rest of the St. Cloud Apollo boys soccer team opened the Section 8A playoffs with a 5-1 over Alexandria on a frigid Thursday evening at Michie Field.
The Eagles, who are the second seed in the south subsection, started quickly, played a dominating first half and then held on for the victory. It boosted their season record to 14-2-1.
Apollo is host to Sartell at 1 p.m. Saturday at Michie in the second round. Sartell (11-5-1) beat Little Falls 3-0 Thursday.
With temperatures in the high 30s, the Eagles hoped to start quickly and Shire obliged by scoring the game’s first goal with 34:31 to play in the first half. The midfielder poked the ball into the net from the far left side for his third goal of the season.
Yes, Shire said, it was an important game.
“It’s the playoffs,” Shire said. “We don’t want to lose.”
Said Gure made it 2-0 about seven minutes later. Then, Hamse Abdule scored on a nice assist from Jordan Keller about two minutes later and the rout was on.
Abdule and Gure passed the ball back and forth in front of the Alexandria net before Hamse kicked it in for his second goal. Apollo had 12 shots in the first half and 22 for the game. Alexandria wound up with 10 shots.
“We let them get four goals in the first half,” Alexandria head coach Cahil Collins said. “We played a lot tougher in the second half. After that bad start, they responded well. But we needed to start off faster.”
Gure scored the Eagles’ lone goal in the second half, giving Apollo a 5-0 lead with 13:55 left. Alexandria responded with a goal by Nick Heseltine with 12:35 to go. But that was it for the Cardinals, who finish 5-10-2 and with three losses this season to the Eagles, who beat them 7-0 and 5-1 during the regular season.
“Apollo is a very skillful team,” Collins said. “It’s a good, good team. They should do well the rest of the way. I hope to see them playing down at the state tournament.”
It was a good win, but Apollo head coach Ganard Orionzi saw room for improvement.
“I thought we started OK,” Orionzi said. “But when we started the second half, we were flat.
“It’s something we have to look at because it’s not the first time it has happened.”
He complimented the Cardinals for their play.
“Alex is always a good team,” Orionzi said. “They are probably one of the better teams we face in terms of sportsmanship.”
Shire said some of the Eagles’ key players were given a rest in preparation for Sartell. He is excited about the opportunity to play the Sabres again.
“Our goal is to make it to the state tournament,” he said.
Orionzi is also concerned about Sartell. Apollo beat the Sabres 2-1 Aug. 28, then tied them 3-3 in double overtime Sept. 20 in Sartell.
“Sartell plays a very good game,” Orionzi said. “They have had a good progression in their season. They are one of the real competitive teams in the area and they’re unpredictable.
“We all have to be ready to play our best. It’s just an exhausting game when we play them.”