CHICAGO — The anxiousness ripped through John Stanton’s normal confidence.
The Young defender watched his team play a virtually flawless second half, score the lead goal and look to ride everything out in sharp, punishing style.
The way good teams do.
Suddenly, the momentum switched, brought about by a defensive lapse and a stunning string of events.
“That was very stressful,” Stanton said. “I let that ball get through, and I was mad at myself. We were put in a tough spot with something hard to do. But we trained for this, and we practiced hard.”
Stanton responded with a stunning 80th-minute goal for a scintillating and dramatic 2-1 victory over Payton in the West Loop on Saturday afternoon.
Ranked 30th in the Chicagoland Soccer preseason First 50 state poll, Young secured a sharp opening weekend.
The Dolphins (2-0-0) defeated ninth-ranked Hinsdale Central 4-0 on Friday night.
Forward Cole Hockman and sophomore Adisa Obafemi helped collaborate on the winning scenario.
Their pressure outside the top of the box created the corner kick opportunity from the right side -- Hockman won a contested ball at the top of the box and played the streaking Obafemi, whose
shot deflected over the end line off a Payton defender.
With just under a half minute remaining, midfielder Sam Henle delivered a perfect service into the top of the box.
The 5-foot-11 Stanton timed his run and elevated. At the apex of his jump, he fired a powerful header that took the victory.
Just 22 seconds remained on the clock. The Chicago Public League does not play overtime in the regular-season.
“Last year we had a lot of tall players,” Stanton said. “This year, by comparison, we are lacking in height. So, I need to step up and be the main guy on headers and set pieces. So far it has worked out pretty well, and I will continue that.”
The game-winner proved a form of poetic justice.
Payton keeper Ulises Zepeda made a spectacular diving stop in the 54th minute off a Stanton header that negated an apparent sure-goal.
“We did the same thing last night against Hinsdale Central, and I just stayed back and waited to go far post,” said Stanton, who also scored on a header in the Friday win. “I made eye contact with Sam. We have certain plays that we call, depending on the situation
Stanton came of age during the second half of the Dolphins’ season a year ago.
He made the leap from situational talent to consistent starter who helped shape a skilled, dominant backline.
The natural roster churn of high school soccer means roles expand and opportunities open up.
“Last year I was new to the team, and now this year I have to be one of the leaders,” Stanton said.
“Aside from myself, we have an entirely new backline, and a lot of our young guys have stepped up.”
Payton and Young were league rivals when there was a single CPL Premier Division. With the reformatting of the conference into four tables, the two are now grouped in separate conferences.
City rivalries amid the magnet schools invariably touch on family connections and interesting storylines.
Payton captain and two-way standout Andrew Sassower is the younger brother of former Young star midfielder Alexis Sassower, a two-time Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater who helped the Dolphins reach two city championship games.
She is now a sophomore at Case Western.
As Payton keeper Zepeda kept his team afloat with spectacular second half saves, the Grizzlies (1-2-0) remained just one play away from drawing even.
It came on a beautiful 1-2 combination between midfielders Bartosz Betlej and Edgar Piñon.
Betlej slotted a ball through the right flank that Piñon finished with a left-footed blast from about 14 yards in the 77th minute. The game’s dramatic late moment no. 1 tied things at a goal apiece.
“At first I was thinking of just taking the shot, but then I saw him. I played the ball out wide, and he gave me the quick touch back. I had the time and space to get the shot off,” Piñon said.
Dylan Pender is the new coach at Payton. Paul Escobar, who turned the Grizzlies into a formidable city power with the boys and girls’ programs, stepped aside so his top lieutenant could take his first head coaching job.
In 2021, the Payton boys conducted an unprecedented run with a city championship and Class AA regional and sectional titles.
The Grizzles play their first four matches on the road this season. They fell 3-0 to Loyola on opening night, but rebounded for a 2-1 victory against Elmwood Park 2-1 Friday. Lake Forest Academy is next up on Tuesday.
“This is a team with a lot of potential, and we are growing every day,” Piñon said.
After the euphoria of the equalizer, Payton stayed aggressive.
Working off a corner kick from the right edge, Sassower nailed a rocket ball that back-up Young keeper Tommy Lyons had to make a strong play on. He came in to give a break to starter Jackson Sprenger, who recorded the Friday night shutout.
Young fought off the malaise of sloppy first half play, which included a Dolphins goal negated by an offsides call.
The team was clearly more engaged and dialed in at the start of the second half.
In the opening seconds, forward Garen Petrulis broke down the left edge and blasted a left-footed ball from 16 yards that Zepeda had to snare.
The scoring breakthrough followed out of that early second half aggression and build-up.
Off a throw-in from the left wing, Petrulis directed the ball into the box.
The ball squirted out and deflected back to him on the left wing. He made a quick stutter step to elude a defender and delivered a cross.
Forward Reese Kruschke stepped in and hammered a left-footed shot from about 14 yards inside the near post for the opening goal.
“This is a team with a lot of aspirations, and we wanted to come in hard at the start of the second half,” Petrulis said.
“We wanted to win the first five minutes of the half. We put on the early pressure; the rest came easy.”
A year ago, Petrulis was part of the electric and imposing backline. Graduation losses, and the departure of two critical underclassmen, M.J. Hicks and Cesar Lopez, necessitated his move to the top of the attack.
Hicks, a Chicagoland Soccer All-State Watch List player as a freshman last year, is playing with an academy program in Spain. Lopez transferred to his neighborhood school Washington due to the logistical challenges of getting to the Young’s West Loop campus.
“If M.J. and Cesar were still here, I’d probably still be in the back,” Petrulis said. “We have a lot of new guys who have never played varsity before, and they are really stepping up this year.”
Young prevailed despite the absence of several key contributors who were taking part in the SAT testing.
Stanton made up for their absence and earning the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor for his thrilling last-minute goal.
“John Stanton has been unbelievable through two games,” Young coach Nick Maksa said.
“He is really leading our team in the back, taking on guys and going up-top.”
Young did enough to survive and push forward in a perfect tune-up to a nonconference clash with third-ranked Morton on Tuesday.
“It’s not always going to be a dominant performance,” Maska said. “We had more chances today, and we just couldn’t put them away.
“We put in the two that mattered. We want to test ourselves. We think we have a group that’s good enough to test ourselves against the best, and we are going to find out a lot about ourselves the first two weeks of the season.”
GK: Ulises Zepeda
D: Andrew Sassower
D: Sohan Bendre
D: Kevin Manzinilla
D: Vaughn Collier
MF: Diego Roman
MF: Holden Collier
MF: Jacob Hansen
MF: Edgar Piñon
F: Bartosz Betlej
F: Claudio Lopez
GK: Jackson Sprenger
D: Ivo Hoying
D: John Stanton
D: Ernie Camerena
MF: Leo Antoniewicz
MF: Adrian Cogolludo
MF: Oren Epstein
MF: Sam Henle
F: Cole Hockman
F: Reese Kruschke
F: Garen Petrulis
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: John Stanton, jr., D, Young
Young: Reese Kruschke (Garen Petrulis), 50th minute
Payton: Edgar Piñon (Bartosz Betlej), 77th minute
Young: John Stanton (Sam Henle), 80th minute