Barrington and Fremd ready to rumble
Longtime rivals finish up 2021 regular-season
By Mike Garofola
When a fixture listed in the Mid-Suburban League says Barrington versus Fremd, it almost always means there's plenty at stake.
This year was no different, until this week.
That's when Fremd (14-1-1), the new no. 1 team in Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, used a 79th-minute wonder goal to defeat Rolling Meadows, then bagged two second half goals to send off Hersey to officially close lock up the MSL West Division crown.
Barrington (11-3-2) entered the seventh week of the season chasing four points and needed to win its first two games of the week to stay close to Fremd. Barrington also needed a little help from the league in order to make Saturday’s contest at 1 p.m. at Hildebrandt Field for all the marbles.
The Broncos fell behind Buffalo Grove on Thursday, drew back level late, then watched in disbelief when the Bison struck for the game-winner in the 80th minute to dash their dreams of a second-consecutive trip to the Soccer Bowl.
"We fought hard all night long, right until the very end. But it really hurt all of us when we conceded that game-winner," admitted Barrington’s Jeremiah Gascho, whose brilliant free kick would equalize.
"We were all upset and angry, but today (Friday) we rallied around each other, knowing that times like this will make us stronger, and ready for what lies ahead for us,” Gascho said. “And it's a result like this we will never forget as we go forward."
The senior, who has been deployed either at the 10 or most recently the 6, has been a key figure in the Broncos’ success story, It’s a story Gascho never imagined would come so soon after the 2021 MSL spring champions were hit with huge graduation losses.
"We basically lost all of our starters, so I was a little worried about how things would be this fall,” Gascho said. “But guys like Ryan Chang has been a monster along the back, and Kyle Wanca has become a great center-back for us. All of the hard work and great depth that we have has really turned this team into one that can compete with anyone."
Barrington coach Scott Steib gave credit where it’s due.
"The boys deserve a ton of credit for acclimating to the varsity level so quickly," Steib said.
"This is a fantastic group of guys in terms of character, and that quality as young men is part of the equation as well.
"We had so few returning players with experience. However, the players have stepped in and adjusted well right away. They have listened to everything we worked on with them during the summer and early on this fall, and we hit the ground running all the way back in August."
Steib says one of the biggest surprises he and his staff have come to appreciate is the defensive unit, which has not only been good at keeping opponents out of the back of the net but also excellent in terms of limiting high-quality chances.
The Broncos have conceded just 10 goals on the season and only three of which have come in league play.
Steib added that while his roster is void of a true superstar, Gascho has been closest to that title with his control, vision, passing acumen and free kick prowess, which has made him one of the best at his trade in the area.
"We've shown we can play with some of the best after we beat Gateway Legacy, who was rated the no. 1 team in Missouri when we played them in a tournament in Iowa,” Gascho said. “That was a game that we all felt was the way we could play when we go out and work and do the things we can do for 80 minutes.”
"Although this game with Fremd doesn't mean anything in the final standings, we all decided we're going to treat the game like it does. Go out and show we play like we belong up there with them as well."
Fremd senior Brandon Wozniak could not be happier he's wearing the green and white shirt this fall, especially since he and his teammates wrapped up the division crown following its 4-2 victory over Hersey on Thursday night.
"We struggled a little with Rolling Meadows on Tuesday but got the win and did the same with Hersey,” Wozniak said. “We went up 2-0. They got back even, and we eventually won it on goals from Eli (Schoffstall) and Sap (Ryan Sapiente) in the second half.
"To be honest, our mindset has been a little off this week after we got a big win (2-0) over St. Charles East last week. We probably put too much pressure on ourselves, because our confidence hasn't been where it’s supposed to be.
"But we fought hard to get those two wins to eliminate Barrington and to get ourselves into the Soccer Bowl, and that's one of the goals we were after."
Wozniak, who has played with Sockers FC, was thrilled when he learned the Vikings welcomed back three club players who returned to play their senior year for manager Steve Keller.
"Caden (Statz), Adrian (Blonski) and Demetri Vlahos have been great additions to the team, they give us more depth, talent and experience playing at a high level, and I know, like me, they're glad to be back playing with us," said Wozniak, who missed some time with a bad sinus infection, but is now back at 100 percent.
When Wozniak is stationed alongside Beck Smolak, the two form an outstanding center back partnership, one that has been incredibly stingy in front of keeper Robby Remian.
When not along the backline, Wozniak can be found in the center of the park.
"Beck is so good back there. Nothing gets past him," offered Wozniak.
Wozniak feels Vlahos and junior Will Mayer have been major surprises this fall.
"Demetri has been just great in his first year of high school soccer,” Wozniak said. “He's an impact-type of player who is so good on the ball, and he makes great decisions. Mayer is so quick, and he’s a deadly finisher for us as well."
This dynamic duo teamed up to score a remarkable goal in the Vikings’ 1-0 victory over Rolling Meadows earlier this week.
"I am so happy to be playing at Fremd, and I just love the fact those guys, who many of us have known and played with for a number of years, came back to play this season."
Both Fremd and Barrington await their assignment next week: the Broncos for their 4:45 p.m. MSL crossover on Tuesday at home; the Vikings host either Hersey or Prospect on Thursday evening in the 45th annual MSL Soccer Bowl at 7 p.m.