Hinsdale Central overcomes
physical play, Naperville Central
Red Devils prevail 1-0 on Loebig goal
By Matt Le Cren
HINSDALE – Naperville Central was without three injured starters and had lost its last three games, but Hinsdale Central coach Mike Wiggins knew better than to assume his team would get an easy victory.
He was right.
The Red Devils had to work hard for 80 minutes to earn their 1-0 victory in nonconference action Saturday at Dickinson Field.
Senior playmaker Bryan Loebig scored the only goal off of a long throw-in from Stephen Coan eight minutes after senior goalkeeper Ethan Gama made a spectacular save to keep the game scoreless as Hinsdale Central (8-1-1) emerged victorious despite being held to less than two goals for just the third time this season.
“Naperville Central is always good,” Loebig said. “A lot of credit to them. They have a very strong team.
“I think our touch might have been off a little bit today, but we got what we needed and we played hard. No matter how sharp our passes are, I think our work rate is always highest.”
It needed to be because the Redhawks (4-6-0) played tough defense throughout. Most impressively, the visitors held star striker Rigoberto Rojas without a shot for the first 60 minutes and to just two attempts overall.
“A great thing that we take away from today (is) the fact that we need to deal with a team that was as physical as that,” Wiggins said. “We haven’t seen that to that extent, so for us the lesson is being able to deal with that physicality and not allowing that to frustrate us.
“They were more physical than I think we were ready for, but I think it’s’ something that we’re a better team because of playing Naperville Central today and that’s why we enjoy playing them. They’re well coached, they’re well organized. ... So that was a good, subtle reminder that our speed of thought and speed of play has to be constantly sharp and that we can’t give in to any level of frustration that could come as a result of a team playing the way they did.
“Credit to them. They did a good job.”
But it wasn’t good enough to pull off an upset of the reigning state champions.
One of the few areas the Red Devils proved dangerous in was restarts, particularly the heaves from Coan. One of them came down in the middle of traffic in front of the Naperville Central goal in the 31st minute.
Daniel Lillard got a touch on it before Loebig booted it through the crowd and past Redhawks goalie Wesley Sprague for his sixth goal of the season with 8:33 to go in the first half.
“That’s always a big asset of our team is Stephen’s long throw,” Loebig said. “I think that’s very important. We’ve had that in the past with Evan (Floersch), so I think that’s obviously a big asset.
“Today I just went up and the ball kind of got caught in between everybody, and I just put it through the crowd and it went in.”
It was the only thing that did. Sprague and Joe Kallikadan, who played the second half, each recorded three saves to keep the Redhawks in it.
Sprague tipped a 45-yard free kick from Louis St. John, who earlier had hit the right post from 17 yards out, over the crossbar at the 12:35 mark.
Kallikadan had an even better stop, denying Loebig from point-blank range in the final minute.
“The keeper came up with a pretty big save at the end,” Wiggins said. “For Bryan to get slotted in the way he did, I thought for sure Bryan was going to put that in.”
As impressive as that stop was, it wasn’t the toughest of the game. That honor went to Hinsdale Central's Gama, who made a brilliant reflex denial with 16:50 to go in the first half.
The Redhawks ran a textbook counterattack, with senior midfielder Daniel Petro springing Kyle Forest into the right side of the penalty area. Forest shook off a challenge near the end line, turned and sent a pass in front to Kyle Crawford, whose one-timer seemed destined for the net until Gama dove to his right and somehow got a hand on it to deflect it away.
“I know how that play usually works where the guy dribbles down the side,” Gama said. “Usually he’s looking for the guy in that PK area, and I just try to come back and cover my space. Luckily I was able to get there in time.”
Gama finished with three saves to record his fifth clean sheet. The Red Devils now have outscored their opponents 40-10 but this was the stiffest test they have received from a Chicago-area team since their shootout win over Morton.
“I think our guys definitely did a great job of hanging in there, not being too physical but just keeping up with their physicality and their mentality,” Gama said.
“They’re obviously a great opponent, but our guys really bring a lot. I think good things are going to happen again this year.”
Naperville Central coach Troy Adams is hoping for the same thing for his team, though the Redhawks, who are in the midst of a rare four-game losing streak, have yet to see it.
“I told the boys that the result is not what we want, but we’ve been talking about these steps forward and we seem to move forward, back, forward, back,” Adams said. “I said this would be something that I look at that now we’ve started that step forward again.
“The question is can we keep that intensity, can we keep that work rate, can we keep that passion, desire and discipline?”
The Redhawks played without three starting midfielders in seniors Christopher Schwaiger and Noah Canlas, and sophomore Jimmy Kalkofen.
Schwaiger missed his third-straight game after a concussion, while Canlas has been sidelined two games with a back injury and Kalkofen suffered a pulled leg muscle in practice Thursday. All three, however, are expected back soon, perhaps as early as Thursday’s DVC tilt with Metea Valley.
Meanwhile, Adams used this game as an opportunity to play nearly everyone else on the roster.
“Nonconference game, you try to get everybody at least a little bit of time,” Adams said. “It’s why you play good competition, to give your kids a chance to see that this is who we’ll have to beat if we want to do what we want to do.”
G Wesley Sprague
D Colin Bradley-Leon
D Frank DeStefano
D Jack Eagan
D Griffin Geisler
M Colin Heeneman
M Joe Granato
M Nate Zain
F Taha Din
F Kyle Forest
F Neal Hasan
G Ethan Gama
D Nick Silva
D Daniel Lillard
D Mikey Usher
D Nikash Tejpal
M Jimmy Walker
M Stephen Coan
M Louis St. John
M Bryan Loebig
F Rigoberto Rojas
F Jake Semba
Man of the Match: Bryan Loebig, MF, Hinsdale Central.