Photo by Christine Troyke
MILTON -- The first goal was a masterpiece. The second was nearly its equal.
Those two highlight-reel worthy gems from Peter Kurowski and Dominic Bonilla on Tuesday night sent second-ranked Collins Hill back to the Class AAAAA boys soccer finals with a 2-1 win at No. 6 Milton, leaving only a Friday rematch with Northview between the Eagles and their second straight state title.
Kurowski's late first-half goal was the equalizer and Bonilla's was the game-winner in the 55th minute.
"(Kurowski's) was a big-time play from a big-time player in a big-time game," first-year Collins Hill head coach Drew Prentice said. "He's really come on this year ... that was a world-class finish right there. The second one, again a big-time player. That was an absolute rip."
Collins Hill (19-2) fell behind in the 14th minute and squandered a handful of close chances in the first half, but those were quickly forgotten when Kurowski thrilled the visiting fans off a nice feed from teammate Josh Fancher.
Fancher set up the goal with a run into space on the right slide before threading a pass to a sprinting Kurowski, who stepped in front of Milton goalkeeper Kevin Wangenheim and redirected the ball with a slick goal that froze Wangenheim and found the open net.
The masterpiece -- Kurowski reached his right foot and back-flicked the ball behind his left leg -- had his teammates on the bench shaking their heads in amazement.
"I went for the flick and hoped it went in," Kurowski said.
It did, just 29 seconds before halftime. It was a major momentum changer as Milton (16-5), which eliminated Region 8-AAAAA champion Dacula in the second round, saw the one-goal lead quickly evaporate.
"That goal before half changed our whole strategy," Bonilla said. "That goal was big, not having to play from behind."
The Eagles' first lead came courtesy of a miscue when a Milton defender's pass went directly to Bonilla. Seeing an opening, the midfielder sprinted to his right and found open space from 20 yards out.
He then fired a laser shot from the right side to the opposite upper 90, placing it in a nearly impossible location for Wangenheim to save.
"I saw (the defender's eyes) and he ended up giving (the ball) to me," Bonilla said. "I decided I might as well take a shot."
His shot was beautiful, but so was Kurowski's first-half tally. Both were exceptional and the teammates said they were eager to catch them on video.
But which was better?
"I like his," Bonilla said.
"I don't know, they were both pretty nice," Kurowski countered.
The goals stood thanks to a stout Collins Hill defense, which bounced back from one early mistake to completely shut down Milton. Jonathan Nelson, Brady O'Brien, Nick Lane and Fancher kept the heat off goalie Jackson Taylor most of the night.
Taylor faced just one shot on goal in the second half, partly because Collins Hill was the aggressor, with Bonilla and Zak Wallingford controlling the central midfield. Their play set up Kurowski and Malcolm Miller in the attack, and that tandem nearly made it 3-1 in the 69th minute when Miller's open shot from in close sailed just high.
The insurance goal wasn't necessary for Collins Hill, which earned a return trip to Northview in a rematch of last year's finals. It also gives the Eagles to avenge one of their two losses, the most important one that cost them this year's Region 7-AAAAA title.
The Titans are loaded again and Prentice hopes his team eliminates some of the postseason drama it's had so far. Collins Hill fell behind 1-0 to both Walton and Milton in the playoffs, only to rally and keep a repeat title within reach.
"It means a lot to get back, that's what we wanted," Kurowski said.