Wild finish shocks Plainfield S.
in regional quarterfinal
Plainfield Central scores game-winner with :23 left
By Dave Owen
PLAINFIELD – Last-minute drama was more like trauma for Plainfield South.
That theme of tough losses, common many times for the Cougars throughout the latter two-thirds of the season, reared its ugly head again Saturday at the worst possible time.
Leading host Plainfield Central 1-0 late in the Class 3A Geneva Regional quarterfinal, the Cougars (6-14-0) were stunned by two goals in the final 8:54 of play and fell 2-1 to the Wildcats (9-9-1).
The final blow with just 23 seconds left was the real stunner – the Wildcats’ Joel Sanchez broke in on a 1-on-1 chance and drove a shot inside the left post, turning a likely overtime scenario into devastation for the Cougars.
“This is the third game we’ve lost this season giving up a goal in the final minute,” Plainfield South coach Bryant Williams said.
“It’s something we’ve been dealing with all year. We’re just kind of snake-bit. We give up a goal at an inopportune time.”
The finish was part of an excruciating reversal of fortune for the Cougars.
After Plainfield Central’s Sanchez tied the game with 8:54 left, Plainfield South came inches away from its own late go-ahead strike with 1:40 to go.
Kevin Garcia drove up the right sideline and sent a cross to Ramon Ochoa in the box. Ochoa’s shot appeared destined for the lower left corner of the net, but a diving deflection by Wildcats goalkeeper Shane Badertscher barely denied the chance and momentarily maintained the tie.
But only momentarily.
After Edgar Cardenas gained control at midfield from two Plainfield South players, he chipped a pass to Sanchez racing in with a Cougars defender.
With Plainfield South goalkeeper Francisco Lomeli out to cut down the angle, Sanchez sent a low 16-yard shot inside the left post for the shocking winning score.
“Edgar is an excellent player,” said Sanchez, whose two late goals earned him Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honors. “I knew he could flick the ball to me.
“As soon as I saw that I just yelled at him to flick. My first reaction was to run up, and I took my chance.”
Most painful for the Cougars was that the late rally came with Plainfield Central playing into a stiff second-half wind.
“They just got a quick counterattack, and we were pushing up a couple of defenders to try to get that second goal,” Williams said.
“With the wind at our backs I thought it was going to take a couple of long balls to get by us. Unfortunately they had a kid up-top (Sanchez) who was really quick and he beat our defenders.”
The match was déjà vu on many levels.
“I actually got one against Plainfield North (in the final minute) too, last week,” Sanchez said.
“In overtime on Monday he found a winner,” Wildcats coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “He’s on a little bit of a goal-scoring streak. Hopefully he can carry it into Tuesday (regional semifinals against Naperville Central).”
Saturday’s regional quarterfinal high drama was also very similar to the Sept. 22 regular season meeting between the Cougars and Wildcats.
“We tied it at 1 with 12 minutes left,” Fitzgerald said. “They scored with eight left to make it 2-1. We scored with five left to make it 2-2, and it went to a shootout, and we won.
“Obviously the teams know each other really well, and South played very well and very hard. Credit to them too. It’s a shame somebody had to lose that one.”
For much of the match, it appeared the Cougars seemed destined for a crosstown celebration.
A big first step was enduring the Wildcats’ first-half wind advantage to be tied 0-0 at halftime.
“(The wind) didn’t knock the ball down as much as I would have thought,” Fitzgerald said. “Maybe the punts went farther when you got it up high. Against the wind was a concern, but even in the first half they had half the chances down here (going into the wind). It was kind of weird.”
Plainfield South endured a first-half shot off the crossbar (by Simeon Adesina), and sophomore goalkeeper Lomeli and the defensive line stood tall.
One example of the strong team defense came in the 34th minute, when Xavier Ordaz and Reid Childs made nice back-to-back clears on an Adesina and Sanchez combination attack.
Then with the wind in the second half, Plainfield South struck early on a series of well-executed set-pieces.
First, Jeff Mickow’s strong 35-yard free-kick was deflected wide by a Wildcats’ defender for a corner-kick.
Christian Gonzalez then lofted the ensuing corner to Ochoa just beyond the far post. An Ochoa header sailed into the upper netting just under the crossbar to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead with 36:06 left to play.
“Ramon’s been our target on headers,” Williams said. “He’s really been one of our best guys going up and fighting to win those headers. He gives himself opportunities to score around the goal like that.
“Ramon is a junior, and he played striker for us. He really brought his game up to a new level this year, and really improved all during the season.”
Other Cougars also earned high marks for their steady play.
“Jeff Mickow a senior captain really stepped up and did well,” Williams said. “He was really solid – we never had to worry about his game at all in the backline.
“Anthony Marmolejo a sophomore forward, and just this few weeks his game has really started to click. Those are some of the guys that have really stood out.”
Up 1-0, the Cougars just missed on chances to add to the lead.
Garcia’s attack up the left side produced a 10-yard shot with 31:40 left, which Wildcats goalkeeper Badertscher grabbed at the near post.
A left side dash by Keelan Lothian-Williams ended with his end line drive off the side of the net in the 14th minute of the second half.
Marmolejo redirected a header on goal off a Mickow free-kick with 17:50 to go. Then with 16:05 to play, Gonzalez’s well-struck 30-yard send from the left sideline just missed connection with a running Marmolejo near the far post.
Then at the 12:45 mark, Badertscher made a catch at the goal line of a curling corner kick try by Plainfield South freshman Anury Carreto.
Around and in between those Cougars chances, the Wildcats built up their own pressure.
Big threats to tie included a Sanchez 12-yarder just wide of the left post with 28:20 to go, and Cardenas shot just over the net on a left-side drive with 14:05 to go.
The late 1-0 deficit built frustration and desperation in the Wildcats.
“We came out attacking and aggressive, which was good,” Fitzgerald said. “We hit a couple posts, and those plays I feel can go either way. It can give you a boost or deflate you, and I’ve seen where that wakes up the other team too.
“You can look back and say we woulda, coulda, shoulda scored, but that’s soccer.”
But luck would surely be on the Wildcats’ side later.
With 8:54 to go, Sanchez was credited with the tying goal on a scramble in front. His deflection in a crowd in front pinballed off players in the crease before crossing the goal line for a 1-1 tie.
“It almost went off the goalie on a flick on, got in behind and it was almost an own goal,” Fitzgerald said of his view on the equalizing score.
“They (the Cougars) find a goal on probably a defensive mistake on our side, but we kept at it and kept throwing numbers forward. We had other chances, then we found one, then Joel makes a great play for the second one.”
Sanchez’s last-minute winner followed more Wildcats pressure.
Plainfield South defender Anthony Cervelli’s nice defense and far post clear denied a Central corner-kick chance with 7:40 left. Then off a throw-in with 5:05 to go, Plainfield Central's Josh De Avila lined a 30-yard shot off the far post.
Then came the final exchange of chances, and heartbreak for a Cougars team that so often deserved a better fate.
“Right now it just hurts a lot,” Williams said. “I feel bad for the boys right now.
“It’s hard to be angry knowing the effort we put in, and then some of the bad breaks. I guess we’ve been part of having those go against us, but at the same time we’ve been incredibly unlucky in the last minute of games this year.”
The gruesomely tough luck began after the Cougars got off to a 4-4-0 start to the season. The year ended with three-straight losses by 2-1 margins, capped by Saturday’s most painful of all one-goal setbacks.
A talented nucleus of underclassmen provides a bright outlook for the future of Plainfield South soccer.
But the Cougars lose seniors Mickow, Garcia, Jose Guzman, Childs, Juan Guzman, Lothian-Williams, Josh Demik, Matt Walker, Jair Moreno, Enrique Avitia and Hunter Melendez.
“It’s tough,” Williams said. “We have 11 seniors, but for probably six of those it was their first year playing varsity soccer.
“We were really an inexperienced team. There were games we were starting three or four freshmen on varsity.
“We have a lot of young kids coming back,” Williams added. “Ramon, Anthony Marmolejo, and pretty much our whole midfield. The six or seven guys playing there all come back next year, and we have a couple of really capable guys I’m looking at on defense last year. I don’t feel we have a lot of spots we’ll need to plug.
“The future’s going to be pretty bright for us. It’s the seniors I feel most bad for.”
Surviving Saturday’s wild game earned Plainfield Central a huge challenge in Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Naperville Central.
“Our guys showed a lot of character and mental toughness,” Fitzgerald said of Saturday’s win. “We’re going to need it on Tuesday, and physical toughness too.
“You go out there (Tuesday), play hard and see what happens. We won’t get as many chances as we did today. If and when we get them, we need to put them away. They’re fast, organized and well-coached – none of that is a surprise, we’ve seen Naperville for years. But we get a chance against them.”
GK- Francisco Lomeli
D- Anthony Cervelli
D- Griffin Lapp
D- Jeff Mickow
D- Reid Childs
MF- Xavier Ordaz
MF- Kevin Garcia
MF- Christian Gonzalez
MF- Israel Archinega
F- Anthony Marmolejo
F- Ramon Ochoa
GK- Shane Badertscher
D- Ish Contreras
D- Roger Vera
D- Matt Geib
MF- Zach Bargas
MF- Joel Sanchez
MF- Josh De Avila
MF- Sebastian Contreras
F- Edgar Cardenas
F- Simeon Adesina
Man of the Match: Joel Sanchez, MF, Plainfield Central