LINCOLNSHIRE — Who knew a reference to a fairy tale would motivate a soccer team?
PepeJon Chavez did.
The Stevenson coach got delightfully quirky at halftime of Tuesday night’s match against visiting Carmel, citing words from “The Three Little Pigs” to spur his undefeated club.
The Patriots trailed the big, bad Corsairs 1-0 at the break of the nonconference clash.
“They will try to huff and puff,” Chavez said of the visitors from Mundelein. “But they won’t be able to blow our house down.”
For all of the first half and most of the second, Stevenson’s abode appeared to be shaky, made of either straw or sticks. It then turned to brick, as the hosts scored twice in the final 14 minutes to post a 2-1 victory.
Patriots sophomore back Cole Dirks, nursing a minor groin injury, netted the clincher in the 79th minute after a lengthy free kick from senior back Jackson Shrout. Dirks elevated his right leg to greet the service before twisting slightly to execute a four-yard, reverse-heel flick past Carmel junior goalkeeper Luke Reynolds (four saves).
“Our heads were down for too long after Carmel scored (in minute 17), but our coaches motivated us and did a good job changing our mindset,” said Stevenson senior reserve forward Advaith Ramanan, who tallied the equalizer — his first goal of the season — in the 66th minute. “Maybe we fell behind tonight because our confidence was too high at the start.
“Carmel,” he added, “showed persistence.”
Stevenson (7-0-0), ranked no. 8 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 rankings, was three days removed from capturing the program’s third-consecutive Jim Wolter Titan Invitational at Glenbrook South. The Patriots edged another Carmel — no. 20 Mt. Carmel — 1-0 in the tourney’s championship match Sept. 2.
“We’d prefer to be the underdogs each time we play,” Dirks admitted, adding he’s 90-95 percent healthy. “What I liked most about what we did tonight was our refusal to give up.”
Carmel looked nothing like a 1-3-0 squad. Corsairs senior defender and co-captain Roman Lynch was a veritable force at both ends of the pitch. His corner kick led to the lone goal in the first half. It was fielded by senior back and co-captain Matt Lochner, who blasted a shot off the crossbar above senior keeper and reigning Titan Invite MVP Will Rokosh (five saves).
Corsairs senior midfielder Rolando Colin then one-timed the rebound from 18 yards to inside the far post for his third goal of the fall.
“Great goal by Rolando,” Lynch said. “I was really happy with how we played in the first 20 minutes of the first half. We were in control for the majority of that span, playing with grit.”
“We played with total heart,” Carmel coach Rob Etheridge said. “I was pleased with our effort. We lost the ball in the midfield on their first goal and then made a mistake there at the end, with Stevenson sneaking in a goal.
“Down 1-0, late, it was backs-to-the-wall time for Stevenson. Stevenson is a very good team, but they didn’t create much and didn’t give us much trouble in the first half.
“We deserved at least a draw tonight.”
A superb service from Stevenson junior defender Mohit Damodaran initiated the sequence that led to the Patriots first tally. Sophomore reserve midfielder Daniel Pryor — from a patch of real estate 18 yards out — relayed the feed to Ramanan, who found twine via a four-yard shot.
“(Pryor) did such a good job getting the ball to me from the left channel area,” Ramanan said.
Thirteen minutes later, Dirks gave the home-side’s fans another reason to roar their approval. Exactly 1:50 remained when Dirks broke the 1-1 score to keep Stevenson’s record pristine.
“Cole is a very hardworking young player at the outside back position,” Chavez said. “He’s kind of a coach’s dream in that he wants to do well at all times.”
He’s also the consummate teammate. Dirks praised Ramanan for using playing time to send not-so-subtle messages to Stevenson’s coaching staff.
“He comes off the bench for us, but he’s always out to prove he should start,” Dirks said. “I love that attitude.”
Rokosh smothered a booming Carmel free kick in the middle of the box with 58 ticks left to seal the triumph.
Stevenson hosts Lake Zurich in its North Suburban Conference opener at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.
Carmel (1-4-0) begins its East Suburban Catholic Conference schedule with a match against visiting Nazareth at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, before traveling to Olympic Park in Schaumburg at 8 a.m. Saturday to take on Wheaton Warrenville South in the Body Armor opening round.
“Let’s be ready for our conference opener and play hard and well in front of our fans,” Lynch, who oozes leadership, urged his mates during Tuesday night’s post-match huddle near the Corsairs’ bench.
Two songs — “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett and “All Star” by Smash Mouth — blared from the press box during halftime of Tuesday night’s game. Fitting selections, Stevenson. Buffett, 76, and Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell, 56, died within the past five days. … Dirk’s goal Tuesday night was his second of the young season. It also earned him Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honors. … Carmel’s Lynch, on his club’s 1-4-0 start: “We have 15 more games to prove what kind of team we are.” … Stevenson’s motto this fall is, “The ball shall not fall.” Translation? “Never give up,” Dirks said. … Stevenson’s Rokosh, Alex Huelsman (junior back), Ben Inthisone (junior midfielder) and Sebastian Pop (senior back/midfielder) earned all-tournament honors at the Wolter Titan Invitational. … Lynch unleashed the throw-in of the match in the second half, finding the head of senior forward Max Mazzocco, who was bracketed closely by a Stevenson pair. Lynch’s precise toss traveled approximately 15 yards, but unfortunately yielded no advantage to the Corsairs. … Well into the second half Tuesday night, with his team down 1-0, Stevenson’s Chavez — calm, with an excess of perspective — told a pen-and-pad toting observer, “Win or lose, we’ll be fine. It’s a long season.”
GK Luke Reynolds
D Roman Lynch
D Matt Lochner
D Josh Kieltyka
D Zach Grzesiak
MF Bryan Orozco
MF Diego Pedroza
MF Andres Tellez
MF Rolando Colin
MF Cooper Riley
F Max Mazzocco
GK Will Rokosh
D Cole Dirks
D Jackson Shrout
D Mohit Damodaran
D Alex Huelsman
MF Christopher Konieczny
MF William Boshold
MF Sebastian Pop
MF Ben Inthisone
MF Alexander Xie
F Jack Bacher
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Cole Dirks, so., D, Stevenson
Carmel — Colin (Lochner), 17’
Stevenson — Advaith Ramanan (Daniel Pryor, Damodaran), 66’
Stevenson — Dirks (Shrout), 79’