On a night filled with emotion, Naperville North’s youngest player was also the calmest.
The bedlam sophomore Chris Sullivan caused, however, was anything but calm.
Sullivan scored a brilliant goal when he one-timed a hard cross from Chris Ensign into the net, and 24 minutes later he and the Huskies were whooping it up with their fans after knocking out top-seeded Naperville Central 2-1 on Wednesday in a Class 3A Bolingbrook Sectional semifinal.
The decisive play came on a counterattack with Chris Ensign rushing up the right wing and Sullivan and a defender racing up the middle. Sullivan somehow held off the defender and blasted a 17-yard shot into the upper-right corner.
“I could see the play happening from a mile away,” Sullivan said. “I saw Chris get in space and I knew that ball was coming.
“All I had to do was step in front of my guy and it went in the net. I was on top of the world after that.”
Naperville North coach Jim Konrad called it the goal of the century.
“Glenn Wishnew digs it out at midfield and then he gets to Ensign,” Konrad said. “Ensign makes the sprint and then hits a hot ball across the middle and Sully somehow wraps himself around the defender, gets a foot on it and it ends up in the upper 90.
“That’s Sullivan. The Sullivan boys come through in big moments and Chris came through for us [Tuesday], not only with that goal. He was the one guy I felt kept his composure all night.”
The fourth-seeded Huskies (15-4-3) thus ended the Redhawks’ quest for a fourth straight state trophy.
Ironically, that run began in 2011 when Naperville Central upset an unbeaten Naperville North squad that featured Chris Sullivan’s brother, Joe, in the sectional final.
“It’s definitely ironic,” Sullivan said. “Every single game it’s a bloodbath. Both [teams] hate each other but we both love each other. We have the same respect for each other and it’s always a great game.”
This one was, too. The Huskies, who handed the Redhawks (13-2-6) their only previous loss, 2-1 on Sept. 16, controlled the action in the first half, only to see Central star Jordi Heeneman give his team a 1-0 lead with a great half-volley off a throw-in from Riley Guttosch with 7:10 left.
The Huskies tied it with 35:34 to go in the second half when Connor McBride headed home Sullivan’s corner kick.
“It was a pretty big ball,” McBride said. “I saw it and went back post and somehow I got my head on it. It hit off Jordi’s head at first and then right off mine.”
Heeneman had two good chances to put Central back in front, but North goalkeeper Christian Robert stopped him on a breakaway and then a 20-yard free kick missed the right post by a foot six minutes before Sullivan’s goal.
Robert left the game after being kicked in the mouth with 27:59 left, but the Redhawks couldn’t get anything past backup Riley Wiest, who deflected a shot by Jordi McCormack just enough to allow defender Nick Carballo to boot it away with 20 seconds to go.
“Somebody asked if this is a disappointment,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “I think sad is a better word. A bunch of seniors that gave everything they could during the summer, gave everything they could during the season and played a great game and just couldn’t find a way to get the bounce the way [we] wanted to.”