A couple weeks ago, Cullen Chisholm was told something no athlete ever wants to hear.
“I was told I was never playing soccer again,” Chisholm said.
That didn’t prove to be quite true.
Chisholm scored on penalty kick 7:22 into Thursday’s Section 8A final, just a minute or two after entering a game for the first time since Oct. 6.
It helped give Sartell a 2-1 victory over St. Cloud Apollo at St. Cloud State’s Husky Stadium.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Chisholm, who has a nearly completely torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
“It’s torn from 10 o’clock to 7 o’clock,” said the senior attacker, noting those three unmentioned hours are what are keeping him from a total tear. “I’m going to need surgery eventually.”
He hurt it twice this season, the last time against Willmar. He hasn’t played since, though he was cleared to play in a shootout situation Saturday. On Thursday, he got the OK from his doctor to play and wore a brace that hindered his shoulder movement.
“It’s incredible,” Chisholm said of qualifying for state. “Most people don’t get to play in one state tournament and I’m blessed to play in two.”
Sartell (14-2-4) qualifies for the state tournament for the third time in five years and for the first time since 2013. It’s the fifth straight year the Sabres have played in the section final and third straight time their opponent has been Apollo.
“We’ve battled adversity with injuries and had some 0-0 overtime games just doing what we could,” Sartell senior goalkeeper Colin Johnson said. “But we’ve come into the playoffs ready to play.
“The younger guys really stepped up for us big time.”
Sartell coach Matt Hager noted that his squad also was without senior midfielder Kempton Schneider and senior defender Alec Adelman. Schneider might be Sartell’s best player and has been out for over a month.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” said freshman attacker Connor Kalthoff, who scored Sartell’s second goal. “We lost some key players, so going back to the state tournament is pretty good.”
Kalthoff scored on a header on a pass from Traivis Forst at 17:38 to make it 2-0. It ended up being a critical goal because the Eagles scored in the second half to keep things interesting.
“It felt pretty good,” Kalthoff said of his sixth goal of the season. “It was pretty big.”
Also big was Apollo’s Graham Virtue receiving a red card at 33:02. He was attempting to knock the ball away from Justin Hammerel on a breakaway. Both were going at full speed and Hammerel took quite a tumble.
It meant that Apollo (16-4-0) had to play the rest of the game a man short.
But the Eagles weren’t done. The defending state champions attacked aggressively in the second half. They got a goal from Hamse Sied at 46:32.
“I’m very happy to score for myself and my team,” Sied said through an interpreter. “I was really proud.
“I hope to score more.”
Sied, a sophomore midfielder, was the third Eagle to take a shot on Johnson. Leighton Lommel, the Mr. Soccer finalist, took the first shot. Then came a rebound to Adinajib Yussuf, whose shot also was stopped. Sied’s kick finally found its way into the net.
“It’s been a great night getting a chance to experience this against a good team for the first time in my sophomore year,” Sied said through an interpreter. “This is my first time playing for Apollo and I really appreciate all the seniors and what they have done for me.”
Apollo had several good chances after the goal, but Sartell stood firm. The Sabres, who took third in 2013, find out their opponent and who they play on Saturday.
Coaches have an online meeting to seed the tournament. Sartell head coach Matt Hager said he hopes his team gets a top-five seed. They’ve beaten the defending state champions twice and Apollo was ranked sixth in the last coaches association poll.
And, they’ve tied St. Cloud Tech, which is playing in the state Class 2A tournament.
“It’ll be interesting,” Hager said.
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.