Mustangs beat Blue Devils in PKs to advance to title match
Morton meets Naperville Central in Saturday's Class 3A championship in Frankfort
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By Curt Herron
Following Naperville Central's victory over Fremd in Friday's Class 3A semifinals, it was hard to imagine that there could be as much drama in the match between Morton and Warren.
After all, the Redhawks' 4-3 win over the Vikings was just the 12th time in the 40-year history of the state finals that the outcome of a semifinal had been decided in penalties.
But the huge gathering that showed up to watch the Mustangs and Blue Devils meet in the other semifinal at Lincoln-Way North got treated to a similar type of performance.
Morton and Warren played to a 1-1 draw through 80 minutes of regulation and then competed in four 10-minute overtimes before they two headed to a shootout in Frankfort.
With things still even at 4-4 through the first round of five PKs, the fate of who would advance to Saturday's championship match required an extra kick each.
After Miguel Chacon stopped a try by Nick Wegrzynowicz, freshman Mario Romero converted to cap Morton's 5-4 win in penalties and its 2-1 victory in the match.
It marked the first time in state history that the outcome of two semifinal matches in the same class had to be resolved by penalty kicks.
The win advances Morton (23-3-1) to its first state championship match since 1973, when Morton East took second place after dropping a 1-0 decision to Chicago Harrison.
By coincidence, the Mustangs also advanced by a 2-1 score on penalties in their only other semifinal victory, which happened in the second year of the state tournament.
Mike Caruso's team meets Naperville Central (19-4) in Saturday's 7:00 pm final. The Redhawks are also making their second title appearance, after placing second in 1988.
The Mustangs will attempt to win their first state title in any sport since 1986 (softball) and their first boys state championship since 1970 (baseball).
Warren (22-4-3), which was hoping to reach the title match for the first time since 2006, will play Fremd (16-6-2) in Saturday's 5:00 pm third place match.
"We're playing tomorrow and that's unbelievable," Caruso said. "These guys have been talking the last few days about how they want to be remembered. Hopefully we can repeat this type of performance on Saturday.
"Mario, a freshman, stepped right up when I told him he was shooting, and calmly and coolly buried it. And Miguel has played as good as you can in the playoffs and is fearless and he saved us with two big stops.
"Offensively, Warren was fast and we had our hands full with them, but we battled. We had three nice chances early in the first half and could have had a two- or three-goal lead and only got one against them."
The Mustangs no doubt benefited from the enormous crowd of Morton fans who converged on the south suburbs to watch their squad try to make some history.
Nearly 30 buses brought students who packed two-thirds of the main stands while the overflow headed to the other side of the field to sit behind the team.
As a result, Morton had a big crowd advantage, even though Warren brought a very nice crowd of its own, considering the far distance they had to travel.
The effect of the crowd was obvious during the penalties, which were about as equal as the play had been on field during the 120 minutes of action.
Warren had advantages following its kicks, but the Mustangs responded each time. The exception was on both teams' third tries, which were both denied.
Alex Brunell and Alexis Lopez made the first two kicks for the Blue Devils, with Jesus Morales and Joel Salmeron answering with goals for the Mustangs.
In the third round, Chacon knocked away a try and Brady Walsh did the same for warren, setting the table for the final two kicks of the initial five.
Auner Solis connected and Joel Leon responded before Chacon got a hand on a try by Nick Hatuc that went in and Abdon Delgado followed with a score.
Morton gained the edge on Chacon's second stop and Romero ended things to send the huge Mustang gathering into a frenzy following three hours of drama.
"I can't believe this, it's like a dream come true," Chacon said. "Since seventh grade we've been talking about this. When we became seniors we wanted to win state and it's crazy since now we're in the finals.
"Coming into this game we've been telling everybody that we don't practice every day just to lose a game like this. We wanted to do it for our school, our parents, for ourselves and for our community.
"Our crowd was a big factor in our victory. Just hearing them cheer for us motivated us and kept us focused in the game. I felt motivated and ready going into the penalty kicks since we practice them daily.
"Warren played an excellent game and we both gave good games for our fans. What I like about high school soccer is that you never know how the games are going to end and if they're going to end after 80 minutes."
After several close calls in the opening half, Morton finally found the net in the 38th minute when Alonzo Torres put in a short attempt.
Early in the second half, Torres had a try deflected away and the subsequent corner kick from Morales was punched away by Walsh.
Warren evened things up in the 52nd minute when Ryan Friend connected from close range following a free kick.
As the half wound down, Marcos Romo had a liner tipped over the net on a free kick and Jose Luis Alvarado was stopped on a close try.
In the first two overtimes, Billy Eddy was denied by Chacon while Salmeron was just wide and Morales sent a liner to Walsh.
Following a series of wide attempts in the third overtime, Leon headed a shot to Walsh following a free kick in the final overtime.