Blake Beehler’s boot boosts Naperville Central
Updated: October 29, 2011 8:18PM
After going scoreless during the regular season, Naperville Central midfielder Blake Beehler has scored three goals in the playoffs.
None was bigger than the one he tallied Saturday at the Class 3A Naperville North Sectional final.
Beehler’s 22-yard grounder from the top of the circle with 15:31 left in the second half snuck inside the left post and the Redhawks held on for a stunning 1-0 upset of top-seeded Naperville North.
It was the third sectional title – and first since 1998 – for Naperville Central (17-4), which will face Quincy in Tuesday’s Normal Supersectional, where the Redhawks will try to advance to state for the first time since 1988.
Pat Flynn started the decisive play when he sent a free kick into the Naperville North penalty area. The ball was blocked by the defense before Central’s Sean Stevens knocked it back to the onrushing Beehler, whose shot somehow made it through traffic and just inches past the outstretched fingers of Huskies goalie Kevin Anderson.
“Sean Stevens was able to slide it down and pass it back to me and I just had to find the corner [of the net],” Beehler said. “I knew that it was our only chance to get ahead in the game.
“It sort of just all opened up for me. I still can’t believe it happened.”
Neither can the Huskies (21-1-1), who had their 20-game winning streak snapped and were shut out for the first time this season.
“We knew going in it was going to be a dogfight and whoever punched one in was going to win,” said Naperville North coach Jim Konrad, whose squad beat the Redhawks 2-0 on Oct. 4. “Unfortunately, we didn’t and they did.
“We had our chances. We had two or three good ones and we just didn’t put it way. It’s one of those things where it’s a cruel game.”
Naperville North, which enjoyed a 15-8 edge in shots, nearly tied it up with 12:10 remaining when Lee Grander’s header beat Central goalie Mike Pavliga, but midfielder Mike West headed the ball out of trouble. North’s Joe Sullivan had his team’s final good chance, but his 15-yard shot missed the right post by a foot with 3:37 left.
Pavliga made three saves to record his 13th shutout with help from defenders Stevens, Jay Tegge and Mike Plant. Central coach Troy Adams moved West and Adam Hamielec from midfield to help out in back after taking the lead.
“I feel like our three covering backs and Mike playing behind us, we covered the three forwards,” said Stevens, who guarded North star Evan Trychta and held him to four shots, three of which were free kicks. “I feel like our midfield was stronger than theirs today, so we shut down their forwards, which is most of their offense, so that we could control the midfield and push up.”
Adams, a 1994 Central graduate who was an assistant coach for eight years before taking over the program last year, was thrilled with the win.
“Between playing and coaching I can’t remember a time that Central has beaten North,” Adams said. “If it’s a game that means something, North typically wins. It’s really a credit to [the Redhawks] who worked their tails off. They put in the work.”
The loss was a bitter pill for the Huskies, who graduate 20 players who led the team to fourth place in the state in 2010.
“Obviously it’s been a great run and it was fun while it lasted,” Konrad said. “I’m sorry to see this group of seniors go, but [Sullivan] and those guys coming back will hopefully pick up where we left off next year.”