Sabres can't recover from late first-half goals by Warriors
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By Paul Johnson
Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke has been waiting for an offensive explosion all season, and he got it in Thursday’s Pepsi Showdown match with Streamwood.
As it turned out, the Warriors needed it, too, as they scored just enough to claim a 3-2 victory over the Sabres in West Chicago.
Wheaton Academy (4-2-1) scored two goals in a 15-second span in the final 30 seconds of the first half, giving it a 3-0 lead.
But Streamwood (1-8-1) scored twice in the second half to make things interesting, leaving the late flurry to end the first half all the more critical.
“That was huge for us,” Brooke said. “We haven’t had anything like that all year. We’re a young team trying to figure things out.
"For them to go and score twice like that really on a lot of hustle and heart, that was huge for us. If we don’t do that, we leave here with a tie or they get the momentum late and win, so I was really proud of the guys for that. That was new for us.”
Junior Gareth Flynn scored from about 20 yards out with 25 seconds left, his second goal of the game, to make it 2-0.
Just seconds later, his shot, which came off of a set-up from Brian McLean and Bryan Cairncross, was deflected by Streamwood keeper Jose Resendiz and Cairncross came flying in with the rebound goal to open a stunning 3-0 lead with 10 seconds left before the half.
“It was good, I just got on two great balls,” Flynn said. “They came out to me and I just finished them. It was good to get both goals there.
"It was a good through ball from Bryan. He played it through and followed it well. Cairncross had some great minutes off the bench, great stuff.”
Although Streamwood is a young team, the final minute of the first half surprised coach Matt Polovin.
“I thought that was very uncharacteristic of us, to give up two goals like that, but it comes back to being a young team,” Polovin said.
“That immaturity comes out once in a while. We made three mental mistakes, and they capitalized on all three of them.”
Flynn got things started with 16:48 left in the first half when he put away a Mark Rougas pass to give Wheaton Academy the lead.
But as was the case in Saturday’s 2-2 tie in Ohio against Cuyahoga Falls Christian Academy, where a 2-0 lead was coughed up late in the second half, Streamwood got back into the game.
Things were looking fine for Wheaton Academy until the 18:02 mark when Mario Rodriguez scored off a Nestor Ascencio pass for the Sabres, cutting the lead to 3-1.
Holding a two-goal lead, the Warriors were still in control, but it didn’t take long for Streamwood to suddenly change the tide of the game.
With 15:27 left, Christian Rodriguez stunned the crowd with a goal to cut the lead to 3-2.
“Everyone was excited,” Polovin said. “I try to stay as calm as I can, but I felt that we still had a chance to win the game.
"The final 25 minutes, I thought they really played the way we’ve wanted them to play all season. We controlled the ball, took chances. We were involved a lot more. The defense really stepped up. I think it was just too little too late.”
Wheaton Academy did tighten it up after Streamwood cut the lead to one. Casey Zimmerman and Rougas each had shots that were saved late.
“Luckily, after they scored that second goal, we rallied the troops a little bit and didn’t let them score again,” Flynn said. “We just couldn’t finish late.”
It was Streamwood’s sixth loss by one goal this season, but Polovin sees more than a 1-8-1 team when he looks at his young squad.
“You would never think that,” Polovin said of his team’s record. “I think that after this year, the next couple of years, we’ll be the team that people will definitely be talking about.
"Every game we’ve been in, there’s been no giving up. They just fight and fight. Now it’s just putting a couple more chances in.”