Boys Soccer: Okker Verhagen, Oak Park-River Forest edge Downers North
Updated: October 4, 2012 9:20PM
Oak Park-River Forest was an undisciplined, frustrated team after winning just two of its first eight matches this season.
How times have changed.
The Huskies overcame a two-goal deficit and a weather delay Thursday night and rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory over host Downers Grove North in West Suburban Silver action at Carstens Field in Downers Grove.
Okker Verhagen’s breakaway goal with 5:20 left in overtime capped the stirring comeback for Oak Park (10-6-1, 3-2), which has won eight of its last nine games. It was the third straight loss for Downers North (8-9-2, 2-4), which picked up four yellow cards, all for dissent, after halftime.
“Several games ago, we were the team getting yellow cards, losing composure and we saw what it did to (Downers North),” Oak Park coach Paul Wright said. “We were that team literally five or seven games ago.
“It speaks volumes that (the Huskies) have grown from that and we’ve stuck together a lot more. We just played our game and we battled and got through, so it’s great to see that.”
The match, which began 45 minutes late because the referees were delayed, didn’t start out great for the Huskies, who missed two golden scoring opportunities in the early going and then saw the Trojans score twice in 53 seconds.
Reid Melton put Downers North ahead with a penalty kick with 15:13 left in the first half and the Trojans made it 2-0 on another restart when sophomore Mike Malloy leaped into a crowd in front of the goal and headed home his first varsity goal. Cullen Cummings triggered the play with a 35-yard free kick that Melton headed up into the air and behind Huskies goalie Sam Lisak.
Lisak, who was making just his second varsity appearance, didn’t crumble, keeping the Huskies in the game by making five saves.
“We just kind of kept calm and stayed cool and stayed together,” said Lisak, who was called up to varsity two weeks ago. “It’s a big confidence booster. I was pretty nervous going into these past couple games but it’s nice to win.”
The visitors were able to regroup during a 30-minute storm delay that halted the game with 9:06 to go in the first half.
With their reserves standing and cheering the rest of the way, the Huskies began to dominate. Verhagen hit the post with a shot at the 26:15 mark of the second half and a half-minute later Harry Engoren scored to cut the gap to 2-1.
Gianluca Lo Casto tied the game 1:22 later, making a blistering run into the right side of the box with a defender on his hip before firing a shot from a sharp angle that went off the glove of Downers North goalie Raymond Greco and inside the left post.
Verhagen scored the game-winner from a similar spot, taking a pass from Pat Callahan up the right wing and beating the charging Greco before scoring into the empty net. The Trojans argued, to no avail, that the Huskies were offsides on the play.
“One of our players was debatably on or offsides but he had nothing to do with the play,” Verhagen said. “I realized that so I ran in behind.”
The victory assured the Huskies of finishing no worse than fourth in the conference, but more importantly showed them the benefit of keeping their composure.
“Sam came up with some good saves so that helped us out definitely, but mainly it was about not losing our heads, staying focused,” Verhagen said. “(We weren’t) panicking because it was 2-0, but just stayed in the game.”