skip navigation

Game story: Wheaton Academy's Clegg clogs NSCD victory hope

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 09/11/23, 12:30PM CDT


Pair of 2nd half assists drive Warriors to come-from-behind 3-2 win in Body Armor opener

SCHAUMBURG — Though in a somber mood about a quarter through the game, midfielder Will Clegg realized that time was on the side of Wheaton Academy, even if the score wasn't.

The Warriors had to dig in and catch up, though falling behind a quality opponent is typically a recipe for disaster. 

The silver lining was the 65 more minutes of playing time.

“We had a lot of good chances at the start, and we gave up one goal early, and then another unfortunate goal,” Clegg said. “Our coaches preach all the time that stuff is going to happen in a game.

“We just had to stay in it, and show that we had a lot of great possession time.”

The patience paid off.

Clegg authored the comeback with two second half assists as the Warriors captured a 3-2 opening-round victory over North Shore Country Day in Pod T of the Body Armor tournament Saturday at Olympic Park.

Wheaton Academy (4-3-1) plays Latin in the final pool-play round Monday. The team with the most points advances to a championship match Sunday.

North Shore Country Day (4-2-1) will face off against Amundsen, of the Chicago Public League, on Monday.

Behind the exceptional play of senior forward Leif Steele, the Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a series of brilliant plays that left Wheaton Academy reeling.

“We knew that North Shore Country Day is a great school, one of the best locally in Class A, and they have played a lot of great schools,” Clegg said. 

“At halftime, we said that they were not going to give the game to us, and we had to fight.”

In his wildest imagination, Warriors coach Jeff Brooke could not have scripted a more exhilarating and emotionally satisfying moment in his return to the sideline.

His son, freshman midfielder Mason Brooke, scored the game-winner in the 68th minute by finishing a half-volley on a beautiful feed from Clegg, who took the initial ball from forward Adam Weber.

After winning nearly 252 games and the AA state championship in 2014 with the boys program, Brooke left the soccer program to focus on his administrative career as a principal.

He also served three years with the girls program and led them to the Class AA state championship game in 2017, when the Warriors lost in a penalty shootout against Triad.

“It’s been great being back coaching,” Brooke said. “The relationship with the guys has been great, having these special relationships with these young men, not just soccer, but also life.”

Now the Warriors are back in AA after winning the Class A state championship two years ago and finishing fourth there last year.

The coach is glad he picked up the clipboard again.

“I was excited to think about it and come back. I was really proud of our guys.” he said. “I was really impressed with their team. I think they’re going to have a great season. 

“Anytime you go down 2-0, you try to figure out who you really are. We showed a great level of commitment to each other. It was a great win for our culture.”

North Shore Country Day is ranked fifth in the Chicagoland Soccer Class A Super 7 poll. 

The Raiders have shown the ability to play at any level and have recorded wins over Latin and Lake Forest Academy.

A physical and marvelous talent at the top of the formation, Steele is a forceful and dynamic presence whose speed and dexterity with the ball makes him especially dangerous.

After Raiders’ keeper Aram Dombalgian opened the game with a spectacular breakaway stop of Sam Brown in the second minute, Steele created the early advantage.

Defender Luke Hansen controlled the ball from the left edge and slotted a beautiful cross from about 14 yards. Steele got on the ball and hammered it inside the near post in the fifth minute.

“In practice this whole week, we focused on getting off to a fast start,” Steele said. “We knew they were a really good team, and they have been at state the last couple of years.

“We knew we had to be ready, not play scared and to treat this like just another game. I think we showed them at the start with those two quick goals. Our next step is focusing, learning how to finish and win against these elite teams.”

The Raiders extended their lead in the 15th minute, with Steele again right in the middle of the action. Off a corner throw-in on the left wing, he played a terrific ball into the box that midfielder Henry Gallun flicked off a Warriors’ defender for the second goal.

“My role has changed a lot,” Steele said. “I started out playing a variety of positions, but I found the past few years my role on the left side, and I have been able to take more of a leadership role.”

Wheaton Academy dug in and started to find its groove about midway through the first half. The Warriors showed exceptional poise and command, not letting the deficit cripple their response.

In the middle of the attack, Scotty Murray began to take charge, using his speed and playmaking skills to subtly shift the balance of the game.

The most important goal came in the 27th minute when another freshman midfielder, Andrew Lopez, played a deep through-ball that 6-foot-4 forward Alex Moncau chased in a foot race against Dombalgian, who came off his line.

Moncau’s contact with the ball deflected off Dombalgian and went into the net to halve the deficit.

“I think the best part about this team is that we keep believing no matter what,” Mason Brooke said. “We just came from playing in the St. Charles Invitational where we played a lot of bigger Class 3A schools.

“We did a good job of playing our game and not getting panicked. No matter what the score is, we are always going to keep fighting.”

Dombalgian made a spectacular stop of Clegg off a half-volley in front of the goal in the 39th minute to preserve the lead. But the momentum had clearly shifted, according to Raiders’ coach Kyle Jones.

“You know when you go down two goals, you are going to normally get a response from that team,” Jones said. “We were disappointed with the first goal they had, a little mix up in the back. That is a big difference going into halftime down two-one instead of two-nil. Getting that first goal before the half was a big difference.”

Clegg started the game-tying sequence in the 57th minute. He played a sharp ball from his left-wing spot to an open space occupied by Brown. 

The ensuing blast that came from about 16 yards curled inside the near post.

Clegg earned the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match distinction for his impact on the game.

He then created a perfect father-son moment for his coach and teammate. Rather than force a bad-angle shot off the initial ball from Weber, he found Mason Brooke in the open crease for the alert finish.

“It’s really great and special,” Clegg said. “I love playing for this team.”

North Shore Country Day produced several strong scoring chances in the final 10 minutes, forcing Warriors’ keeper Connor Riddle into some athletic and diving stops.

He cleared a ball off the line by Steele in the 79th minute.

“Those were some great saves, but we have to learn how to capitalize on those opportunities,” Jones said. “We have to play a little smarter and communicate more.

“We’re looking to take that next step as a program. I was a little disappointed today, because we had a great opportunity to do so. We’re not going to be the nice guys who are content with getting close. We have a higher standard now, and we have to fight and win those games.”

Starting lineups

North Shore Country Day
GK: Aram Dombalgian
D: Kyle Banner
D: Smith Flickinger
D: Luke Hansen
D: Kai Zavala
MF: Henry Gallun
MF: Razaan Ghazi
MF: Kaeden Ackley
F: Daniel Becker
F: Leif Steele
F: Kai Zavala

Wheaton Academy
GK: Connor Riddle
D: Finn Ruch
D: Jakob Karlson
D: Asher Barton
D: Carlton McClure
MF: Andrew Lopez
MF: Mason Brooke
MF: Scotty Murray
MF: Will Clegg
F: Sam Brown
F: Alex Moncau

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Will Clegg, sr., MF, Wheaton Academy

Scoring summary

First half
North Shore Country Day: Leif Steele (Luke Hansen), fifth minute
North Shore Country Day: Henry Gallun (Steele), 15th minute
Wheaton Academy: Alex Moncau (Andrew Lopez), 27th minute

Second half
Wheaton Academy: Sam Brown (Will Clegg), 57th minute
Wheaton Academy: Mason Brooke (Clegg), 68th minute