BARRINGTON — Aaron Morris played his last prep match in a Palatine kit 21 years ago at Barrington.
He and his Pirates mates fell 3-2 to the host school in a Class AA sectional final, capping a 20-3-2 season under then-coach Willie Filian. The Broncos, coached by current pitch boss Scott Steib, would go on to finish third at state in 2002.
Now the second-year varsity helmsman at his alma mater, Morris stood along a sideline at Barrington Community Stadium on Thursday night — minutes before the Palatine-Barrington kickof — and looked back.
But not before he delivered some levity.
“Don’t ask me what I had for breakfast this morning, because I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” Morris cracked. “But I have plenty a memories from that tough loss, right here, all those years ago, including Barrington scoring the first three goals against us.”
Morris’ club scored one goal on Thursday night. It turned out to be more than enough.
Palatine edged Barrington 1-0 on a 79th-minute goal in the Mid-Suburban League clash. Pirates sophomore forward Sebastian Lopez’s spot-on, back-post corner kick found the center of senior forward Karol Noga’s forehead.
Noga nodded home the clincher from about three yards.
“Boom, another win, another three points,” Lopez said after Palatine — ranked no. 19 in Chicagoland Soccer’s Top 25 rankings — improved to 7-0-1 overall and 2-0-1 in the MSL.
Karol (pronounced Carl) and I clicked. We’re always eyeing each other before corners.”
Illness had nearly reduced Noga to DNP status on Thursday night. But one of the Pirates’ top players — he made Chicagoland Soccer’s All State Watch List last fall — gutted it out and contributed significantly off the bench for the visitors.
“Everybody played with grit, with faith,” Noga said minutes after notching his fifth goal of the season.
Palatine sits atop the MSL table with seven points, ahead of Schaumburg, Hersey and Buffalo Grove (six points each). The lone MSL school without a league loss is Morris’ crew. Barrington slipped to 3-3-1, 1-1-0.
“One of our better games,” said Morris, whose side settled for a 1-1 tie with Elk Grove on Tuesday. “It’s nice to get rewarded, because in soccer it’s not unusual to do everything right in a game and leave with a loss.
“Tonight we went up against a typical Scott Steib-coached team — organized, disciplined and one that plays with intensity from start to finish. Barrington brings out the best in other teams. I’m proud of what our group did tonight.”
Palatine senior back Andrew Kania — another Chicagoland Soccer All State Watch List booter — landed the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor for turning in another sturdy effort and making life fairly easy for winning goalkeeper Alex Ganji (two saves).
“Andrew holds us together, keeps us organized,” Morris said. “He did that and more for us tonight. Intense and smart, he’s also an imposing force.”
Steib oversaw intense practices on Labor Day and Wednesday this week. Each session pleased him.
So did his Broncos’ performance against Palatine.
“We talk all the time about playing for the badge, representing the tradition of Barrington soccer as best we can each time we compete,” Steib said on BASA (Barrington Area Soccer
Association) at the stadium. “Tough loss for the boys, but they played with spirit and for the badge. We’ll be fine if we play this way — with intensity and focus.
“We knew Palatine is a good, strong team,” he continued. “We also knew a win tonight could determine the MSL West champion. We’re hoping that won’t be the case.”
Barrington senior center midfielder Mattie Vitale used his 6-foot-5 frame to stymie Palatine chances and pose a constant threat at the other end of the pitch. He headed away a promising Palatine throw-in in the first half and smacked a 20-yard shot on goal in the 74th minute.
“It’s been a struggle for us, scoring goals,” Vitale admitted. “But, overall, I was very happy with the way we competed tonight. Both teams battled hard.”
“It came down to one moment, just like it does in a lot of close soccer games,” added Broncos senior center back Logan Cidulka, whom Morris praised after the match. “Palatine had that moment there at the end. We need to create more chances and take more risks.”
Cidulka and Vitale have been friends since they were preschool age. They live four houses apart — or the approximate distance of Thursday’s threatening second-half free kick off the foot of Barrington sophomore back Jack Ball — on North Valley Road.
“Our star midfielder,” Cidulka said of Vitale. “He’s so soccer-smart.”
“The rock of our backline, the heart of our defense,” Vitale said of Cidulka.
Broncos freshman keeper Evan Ryder stopped two shots. He came up big early, punching away a Palatine corner in minute two. His counterpart, Ganji, smothered a dangerous ball near the top of the box in the 25th minute.
Palatine senior midfielder Jordan Mok and junior midfielder Yandel Rocha, along with Pirates junior back Jerry Afonrinwo, exuded tirelessness all night. Senior teammate Adrian Atanassov did an admirable job marking Vitale.
Among Barrington’s other standouts were junior midfielder Brian Mazgaj and reserve junior midfielder Patrick Tabb.
Mazgaj dribbled and distributed well, while Tabb escaped a couple of tight spots with his guile and ball control.
Palatine outshot Barrington 14-7 and totaled six corner kicks to the Broncos’ one.
Looking ahead, Palatine hosts nonconference foe Huntley at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Barrington visits Schaumburg for another crucial MSL West Division test at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Steib emerged as “Mr. 400” after guiding the Broncos to a 1-0 win over Jacobs at the 35th-annual Barrington Classic on Aug. 28. The victory total represents his number of combined career victors at Lake Zurich (1994-1999) and Barrington (1999-present). … Steib grew up in Oregon and Washington state as a huge Seattle Mariners fan, and he still is. “I tried to become a Cubs fan in the 1990s,” he said before the start of Thursday night’s game. “But, as I read Cubs box scores, I always found myself wondering, ‘How did the Mariners do?’ Being a Mariners fan is in my blood.” The Mariners and Cubs would make the playoffs if the season ended today. A Mariners-Cubs World Series? “That would be great,” Steib said.
GK Alex Ganji
D Jerry Afonrinwo
D Andrew Kania
D Karan Toor
D Damien Drzewiecki
MF Jordan Mok
MF Yandel Rocha
MF Orlando Angelina
MF Adrian Atanassov
F David Kozeav
F Sebastian Lopez
GK Evan Ryder
D Logan Cidulka
D Nico Hausser
D Jack Ball
D Andy Sfondilis
MF Brian Mazgaj
MF Mattie Vitale
MF Duda Gawronski
MF Kyle Krull
F Kian Cullen
F Philip Jackowski
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Andrew Kania, sr., D, Palatine
Palatine — Karol Noga (Sebastian Lopez), 79’