Lincoln-Way East earns win in 2OTOsvaldo Estrada (8) Thornton Township High School battles John Ulrich (9) Lincoln-Way East during IHSA regional soccer playoffs Thursday night October 19, 2011 in Frankfort, Illinois. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 19, 2011 9:45PM
Lincoln-Way East was not about to let controversy around suspended Hall of Fame coach Brian Papa be an excuse to lose focus in the Class 3A Lincoln-Way East regional semifinal Wednesday.
“We aired everything out the week it happened and we put it behind us,” interim coach Ryan Decker said. “I’m the coach for the rest of the season. “It isn’t the way I wanted it to happen, but it is what it is.”
Papa was in the crowd, but would not comment on the suspension.
“Tell (the media) that I’m smiling and rooting on Lincoln-Way East,” Papa said.
Papa wasn’t the only one smiling, as East knocked off Thornton co-op 3-2 in a double-overtime thriller. With the wind behind him, Michael Roth sent a free kick from 56 yards out over the outstretched hands of Thornton goalie Eduardo Vargas and into the back of the net for the game winner.
“Coach was telling me all game that with 25-mile-per-hour winds to just keep putting the ball on goal and good things would happen,” Roth said.
East (7-10-5) started the scoring just under 12 minutes in when John Ulrich had a steal in the box and sent it home to make it 1-0. A little over eight minutes later, Thornton co-op (9-8-2) tied things up when Alexandro Ayala set a free kick from 30 yards out directly at Griffins goalie Rick Torres. Torres made the diving stop, but Emmanuel Barjebo slid in the box and knocked in the rebound.
Ulrich struck again in the second half, blasting a shot from 28 yards out into the back of the net with 14 minutes remaining to put East up 2-1. Thornton co-op answered with just under seven minutes to go when an Ayala cross from left of the goal found the foot of Jesus Fernandez-Ortiz to tie the game, setting up overtime.