BOYS SOCCER Champion dives into district final

The Golden Flashes and Bristol had some natural elements working against them.
CHAMPION -- Mud already covered members of the Champion High boys soccer team. It seemed harmless to submerge themselves even more.
That's exactly what the Golden Flashes did following their 2-1 victory over Bristol in a Division III district semifinal Tuesday at Champion High Stadium.
Champion (10-4-4) will play the winner of Thursday's Mooney-Maplewood game, which was postponed Tuesday because of the weather, on Saturday at 7 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Postgame celebration: Champion players took their shirts off and dove head first into the center of a field that had been torn apart during a hard rain Tuesday evening.
"That's probably the highlight of our season right there," joked Champion goalkeeper Justin Kurilchick.
Champion coach George Barcikoski said the field conditions were "definitely the worst" he has seen.
"Very soft, marshmallowy," he said.
Bristol coach Greg Brown said, "This is the first game that I've ever played in field conditions like this. It was a tournament game -- that's probably why it had to be played."
The field, turned completely mud in the center, had players struggling to keep their footing and control of the ball in a game that was delayed 55 minutes by lightning.
"Both teams were very limited in their ability to play the ball and use their foot skills," Brown said. "It was a game of guts."
Barcikoski gave his defenders an extra word of advice before the game.
"They have to play it safe," he said. "They can't try to stab after the ball, because as soon as you stab, you're going to slide and lose control. Just make the [opponent] make the bad pass or bad dribble."
Finding a way: Seniors Eric Minton and Michael Smith held their ground enough in the first half to give Champion a 2-0 lead.
Minton hit the right side of the net from 20 yards away with 12 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the first half.
Smith then took a pass from junior Jimmy Ray and scored with 1:29 remaining before halftime to put the Golden Flashes ahead 2-0.
"It would have been nice if we got a couple in the second half," Barcikoski said. "But we kept them on their heels most of the time."
Bristol (12-3-3) made one last effort when sophomore Bob Wheelock ruined Champion's shutout with 8:37 to play.
"We were trying to get him the ball because that's where it seemed the opportunity was," Brown said of Wheelock.
But the Golden Flashes held in the final minutes and began their celebration at midfield.