While not quite a miracle, the Lincoln-Way East boys Soccer team did complete an improbable comeback Tuesday, Oct. 22, against Andrew in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A Lincoln-Way Central Regional quarterfinals.
Down 3-0 at the half, the Griffins managed to score four goals in the final 20 minutes of the game to win 4-3 and advance to the regional championship.
Sean Sibley scored the game-winning goal with three minutes and nine seconds remaining in the game. Sibley received the ball inside the goal box on a long pass from near midfield. Sibley faked left, pushed the ball right and put the ball into the back of the net for the score.
"[Sibley] never stops running," East coach Ryan Decker said. "He's the engine of the group. To have the composure to put it away and finish [the comeback] off in that situation in the playoffs, that is experience. That is why he's been a four-year varsity player. It was a moment he has been working toward for four years. He's going to remember that one."
The goal capped a comeback that seemed unlikely after a three-goal first half by Andrew.
"You've got to like the character of this group [as] 3-0 is a deep, deep hole in the playoffs, especially with only 40 minutes to get out of it," Decker said. "But they figured out a way to get it done."
Andrew's strong first half started with 25:21 left as junior midfielder Blake VanBruggen scored on a shot that slipped past East goalkeeper Sean McGovern.
Ten minutes later and seconds after an Andrew player received a yellow card before a restart, junior forward Jonathan Sustaita scored for the T-Bolts on another ball that skipped past McGovern in the wet, slippery conditions.
Andrew capped its scoring with 3:39 left in the half when junior midfielder DeVante Purnell scored on a header off a cross sent from the right sideline.
That was when everything began to fall apart. Seconds after scoring the goal, Purnell celebrated by doing two back flips. He was given a red card for the celebration, which meant Andrew had to play a man down the rest of the game.
"The red card definitely affects how the game is managed, because now they had to pull an attacker," Decker said. "We can change what we're doing and defend less. That puts a team behind. Even though they were winning, they still had to chase the game to some degree. That did affect the game."
Still, East wasn't able to generate much offense for the first 20 minutes of the second half. East forwards struggled on their first and second touches, ending scoring chances with no shots on net.
But with 20:43 left in the game, Sibley was fouled inside the box, giving him a penalty kick. He buried the ball in the right corner to make it 3-1.
Then, with 13:00 minutes left, Connor Hughes received a pass from the right sideline, trapped the ball, faked past a defender and placed a bullet from just inside the penalty box past Andrew goalkeeper Ramon Gonzales to make it 3-2.
"That second goal was the key goal," Decker said. "That second goal, in the fashion that it was scored, really showed. And that is what a captain does. That is why [Hughes] is the player he is and why he's a leader of the group. He does it by example. When times are tough, you saw what he did. That carried us, and that gives you energy."
East tied the game on Bryan Dillberg's breakaway goal with 9:51 left in the game. An Andrew player was down on the play, but the official allowed the action to continue, resulting in the tying score.
Andrew coach Pat McDonald declined comment after the game.
Decker said his team needed to play a full game Thursday, Oct. 24, in order to advance out of the regional.
"We've got to be 80 minutes strong," he said. "We were 40 minutes tonight. We got lucky that we got out of it alive. We survived. We advanced."
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