The Priory Rebels won more than a district soccer championship. They also won the respect of Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats.
Unbeaten Priory (23-0) earned a 1-0 victory over Westminster in the cold, wind and rain at Centene Stadium to win the Class 2 District 5 boys championship Thursday. It is Priory’s third district title.
What happened in the game was a move by Priory Coach John Mohrmann that helped put high school sports in a different perspective not often seen nowadays. He pointed out to the officials a goal his team scored should not count.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if I was playing in the backyard,” Mohrmann said. “It was pretty automatic.”
Priory has defeated Metro League foe Westminster twice this season and was attempting to do it a third time.
“We knew it would be a battle,” Mohrmann said. “The first time we played them, we went up pretty fast. The second time, the game was 0-0 at half. At that point in the season, that hadn’t happened to us. They progressed and got better. We saw them beat Clayton in the district semifinal. We knew it would be a tough game. The kids did too. We didn’t take them lightly.”
This time, the game was a little different. The Rebels and Wildcats (12-13) were locked in a scoreless battle.
With about 10 minutes left in the first half, the incident happened that showed what high school sports are all about — class, sportsmanship and dignity for the opponent.
A free kick by Priory captain Kyle Martin hit the top of the football crossbar and bounced off the soccer goal upright and back into the field of play. Westminster’s players thinking that the ball was out, had stopped playing. The ball landed at a the feet of Peter Reitz, tapped the ball into the goal.
“Obviously, our coaches and players began to argue,” said Todd Zell, Westminster’s athletic director. “The middle official had not seen it, nor did the two linesmen. It appeared that the goal was going to be allowed to stand.
“(Priory) Coach (John) Mohrmann then showed tremendous courage and sportsmanship by calling the officials over and informing them that it wasn’t a goal. After a brief conversation, the referees disallowed the goal. That kept a tight game tied.”
Westminster Coach Dan Legters explained what he saw.
“My players saw it hit the football crossbar and assumed it would be called out so they slowed down and anticipated the out of bounds called and did not continue the play,” Legters said. “I saw it hit the football crossbar expected the out of bounds call to be made. Seeing that he (referee) was signaling a goal and that my players were swarming him, I turned to the sideline ref on our side to see if he had seen it. He hadn’t. The frustration was settling in as the head referee consulted with the other linesman who did not see it either.”
Legters said he didn’t make any headway with the officials.
“Initially, the officials just communicated that it was a goal,” Legters said. “They wanted no part in a discussion, they were sure it was a goal and it wasn’t going to change and they were ready to move on in the game until coach Mohrmann stepped in.”
Mohrmann agreed the ball hit the football crossbar.
“Their (Westminster) guys were saying the ball hit the yellow bar,” Mohrmann said. “It was not a goal and I told the refs it wasn’t a goal. He asked me what it hit. I said the crossbar and then it hit the yellow bar and that puts it out of play. None of them saw it. It was misty. It happened so fast. On these shared football/soccer field, that happens sometimes.
“I did see it. I didn’t want to take a goal like that.”
It never occurred to Mohrmann to let the goal stand.
“When the refs talked to the linesman, I thought maybe he’d tell him. He pointed to the center of the field, meaning he didn’t see it,” Mohrmann said. “I realized I couldn’t do that. It was pretty automatic. If the game ended 1-0, we wouldn’t feel right about that.”
The move was a classy one, Legters said.
“I have been in games where minor things have been reversed, like a corner kick that was a goal kick kind of things, but not really one where a goal was at stake in a championship game,” Legters said. “It speaks volumes about the kind of coach and man coach Mohrmann is. I told him after the game that what he did was classy, and I mean it’s one of those things that reveals the true heart of the man.
“I’ve respected him as a coach for so many years, but now it’s at a different level. So many people say they would do the right thing, but coach Mohrmann did the right thing, even in the heat of competition when many would take any route they can in order to have success.”
The Rebels scored early in the second half on a goal by Jeff Hopson, his 18th of the season, to beat Westminster goalkeeper Travis Ralls.
“We weren’t playing as well in the second half and they were playing better,” Mohrmann said. We were having trouble. I think a little frustration was creeping into our play. And then we scored. Andy Rhodes fed the ball to Jeff Hopson, a junior midfielder, who hit a bomb of a left shot from 25 yards out. He found the upper corner. We played safer and took care of the game after that.”
Priory held on to thwart Westminster’s upset bid. Priory advances to host St. Francis Borgia in a sectional contest Tuesday.
It’s been a dream season for Priory. the Rebels have outscored their opponents 98-4 this season. The last goal scored on the Rebels came on Oct. 10 and has surrendered scores in only two games this season. Westminster scored a goal in a 6-1 loss to Priory on Sept. 19. Duchesne scored three goals in a 4-3 on Oct. 10.
Regardless of what happens, Legters said Mohrmann showed a great life lesson to the athletes.
“This points out that sportsmanship and integrity should be at the forefront of competition,” Legters said. “I love competition, and I know Coach Mohrmann loves it too.
The district championship Priory soccer team.
But there are ways to compete that are fulfilling and there are ways that cut corners. We all seek success, but we often forget that success is not only wins and losses, but that success means that we understand right from wrong and are courageous enough to stand up for what is right, even when it could hurt us in the long run.
“The lesson we can learn from this is that so often we focus on results and here is someone for whom the result was secondary. The character of a man is more important than what he achieves, and how you achieve your results actually matter as well. Coach Mohrmann taught all of us watching that night that his concern was not to be 1st, but to be right. It is a lesson that all of us watching would do well to follow in our own lives as well.”
Zell was impressed by Mohrmann’s actions. He wrote a letter to Joe Genoni, the Priory athletic director, letting him know about Mohrmann’s action and how that showed the true aspect of sportsmanship.
“I want to applaud coach John Mohrmann for his decision to talk to the officials about the apparent goal of the district championship game,” Zell wrote to Genoni. “Many of the Westminster parents were extremely impressed with Coach Mohrmann’s behavior, as was I. In my discussion with our coach, he too echoed the sentiment and even said ‘that’s why I like competing against guys like that.’
“This is a major act of outstanding sportsmanship that taught the kids, the fans and me the lesson that it is never wrong to do the right thing. In today’s society where we often see more videos of bad sportsmanship, it was a privilege to witness a display of outstanding sportsmanship. Well done coach John Mohrmann, you have displayed the integrity that I am sure St. Louis Priory School, The Metro League, and MSHSAA want to represent. Best wishes on a successful playoff run for the Rebels.”
Mohrmann said he appreciated what Westminster has done in the aftermath of the game
“Their coach and players and athletic director were all very appreciative of it,” Mohrmann said. “They expressed that. Maybe it’s the kind of thing someone else get put in that position, they can do that.”
Priory advances to host St. Francis Borgia at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“I have to say there is pressure on us,” Mohrmann said. “A lot of years at Priory we go into the district and we are not expected to win. To get those teams fired up and playing without nervousness is easy to do. But hey, we were ranked No. 1 in the first poll of the season and we’re undefeated.
“It’s sort of expected and others expect it. Every team that’s played us has known we’re a good team. We’ve had the bulls-eye on our back all season. Borgia scores a lot of and don’t give up much. I would say it’s going to be a tough game. But the boys are looking forward to it.”