Boys Soccer: Warren wins state title in thriller

Story Image Gurnee's (Warren) team members run to the sideline after winning 2-1 in double overtime over Naperville Central at the IHSA 3A championship game held at Lincoln-Way North. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: November 3, 2012 11:05PM

Daniel Szczepanek and Nick Wegrzynowicz have a special communication. “He’s Polish and I’m Polish, and we speak Polish on the field all the time,” Szczepanek said.

Playing in their biggest game ever, Szczepanek screamed to his teammate: “Iść.” Wegrzynowicz knew what to do. “It’s means ‘Go,’ and that’s what he did,” Szczepanek said.

Wegrzynowicz took a pass from Szczepanek on the left side, beat his defender and drilled a rocket shot that eased past Naperville Central star keeper Michael Pavliga inside the far post to give No. 2 Warren its first state championship in any sport with a riveting 2-1 double-overtime victory over the top-ranked Redhawks in the Class 3A state title match at Lincoln-Way North Saturday night in Frankfort.

Wegrzynowicz scored his 15th goal of the year for the Blue Devils (21-5-3).

“He played me a really great ball. I had to take a defender one on one to get pass. I just went for the far post,” Wegrzynowicz said. His game-winner came with 8:49 remaining in the first overtime. Under new rules instituted this year the teams had to play out the final 18:49.

For the second consecutive year, Naperville Central (23-2) suffered a crushing loss in overtime in the state title match. The Redhawks miraculously forced the two overtime periods after senior Jack Patrick scored on a goal with 14.2 seconds in regulation.

Warren finished state runner-up in 2006 and went a disappointing 0-2 in finishing fourth last year.

Patrick’s score originated from a rare mental mistake by Szczepanek, whose misplay of a ball he was trying to clear provided a final scoring chance for the Redhawks. “I tried putting the ball away, and it didn’t hit my foot correctly and then they scored,” Szczepanek said.

“We didn’t come all this way to lose in that fashion,” Szczepanek said. “After regulation, we talked and we said, ‘We have business to finish.’

“When we scored that goal, we decided we weren’t going to make that same mistake and we just defended for our lives.”

Naperville Central and Warren started the year ranked No. 1 and No. 2. Naperville Central dominated the year, winning 23 out of 24 matches entering the state final game. Warren astonishingly finished third in its own conference, and went just 2-2-2 in the final six games of the regular season.

The Blue Devils got hot when it mattered. “It was a different mindset once the state playoffs started,” Wegrzynowicz said. “For us seniors, we knew it was do or it. We had some bad games during the regular season and we lost some games to teams we should have beat.

“Fortunately for us, we just got past it.”

The game featured a showdown between the state’s top two seniors, Szczepanek and Chicago Sun-Times’ Player of the Year Pat Flynn. The senior Redhawks’ striker entered the state title game with 30 goals and 10 assists. In the first half he had three free kicks that nearly found the back of the net.

In the 26th minute, Flynn nailed a free kick that hit off the near post. In a counter, Warren advanced the ball and senior defender Timmy Pieper hit a through ball that senior midfielder Tony Severini eased in for a 1-0 Warren lead.

“It was a nice ball, a perfect pass and I just got my foot on it,” Severini said. “After they scored, we just had to regroup. We knew that it was our last year. We weren’t going to let one goal change our mood and give them momentum.”

Naperville Central’s players were naturally disconsolate after the loss. Coach Troy Adams, his voice cracking, paid tribute to their fight and resolve. “The last two years have been a thrill,” he said. “I don’t need a state title to know how great it’s been to coach these kids.”

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