There will be a new Class 3A boys soccer state champion this fall.
Oak Park-River Forest made sure of that Friday by stunning defending state champion Morton 2-1 in the Morton Regional championship game in Berwyn.
Junior Tim Huettel scored both goals for the visiting Huskies (14-7-1), who overcame an early 1-0 deficit to end an agonizing streak of playoff futility against Morton, which had beaten them in the last six postseason meetings. That included a 4-0 defeat in last year’s sectional final and one-goal decisions in the 2008 and 2010 sectional semifinals.
“It’s a great feeling because we’ve had a chip on our shoulder from last year when we came out and made some really silly mistakes and lost to them 4-0,” said OPRF coach Paul Wright, whose team is seeded eighth at the Argo Sectional. “Last year we felt like we had such a great team and we came out and that was the [poor] performance we gave. So for these guys to get out of last year’s shadow, so to speak, and beat the team that took them out, on a grass field that we never play on, is a huge win for us.”
Top-seeded Morton (23-2) struck first when defender Joel Leon headed home a corner kick from Robert Avila at the 24:46 mark of the first half, but Huettel tied it when he scored on a left-footed shot from 10 yards out after a long throw-in from Dan Gryzlo bounced over Leon’s head in the Morton penalty area.
Huettel tallied again off another set piece with 7:20 to go in the second half. A corner kick from Gianluca Lo Casto was headed out by the Mustangs but Huettel tracked the ball down at the top of the box and fired a 17-yard shot through traffic that somehow got past three defenders and Mustangs goalie Ian Chacon.
“It’s my job to come to the top of the box and I knew ‘Luc’ was hitting [the corners] deep and so when they flicked it out I knew I had time to take a touch,” Huettel said. “I blasted it and just got it through all of them, luckily.”
It was the fifth goal of the season for Huettel, who had never before scored twice in a high school match.
“It means so much, [scoring twice] in the same game and in the regional final,” Huettel said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. It was unbelievable. In the last nine years they’ve knocked us out six times, so this is so nice.”
The Huskies (14-7-1) had only five shots, including a penalty kick by Pat Callahan that Chacon stopped with 4:29 to go, but they defended tenaciously in front of goalie Liam Sorensen, who made four saves, including spectacular diving efforts in the final 17 minutes to deflect shots by Julio Pedroza and Abdon Delgado around the left post. Earlier, the Mustangs missed a great chance when Chebalo Martinez put a header just over the crossbar.
“After we missed the open header and then the keeper made that save on Julio, I was going, ‘Uh, maybe not this year,’” Morton coach Mike Caruso said. “When that save was made, I said that’s probably the icing on the cake where it’s not going to go our way today.
“But they played great. A couple bounces went their way and a couple didn’t go our way. We got some of those bounces last year in the playoffs but not today.”
The Huskies now are primed to make a deep run, having won 12 of their last 14 games, with the only losses being 2-1 to Hinsdale Central and 1-0 in overtime to Lyons, teams they could face in the sectionals.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Caruso said. “We knew they had been hot the last half of the season. If you take away the first six or seven games for them, their record is probably the best in the state. They put it together at the right time and a hot team is tough to derail in the playoffs.”