The fact that Lockport was the top seed and Stagg the twelfth seed mattered little Tuesday night as the teams battled in an evenly-played affair.
Vinny Smithwick knew the game was likely going to come down to one big moment and the Lockport senior created it.
Smithwick collected the ball on the left side of the box, cut towards the middle and fired a laser back to his left and in for the game’s only goal as the Porters survived 1-0 in a Class 3A Sandburg Sectional semifinal.
“I got a ball that was played perfectly to my feet,” Smithwick said. “I saw a little bit of space and knew that was all I needed to rip a shot.
“It had been a back-and-forth game but as soon as I scored that I knew it was going to fire us up to finish it off.”
Lockport (17-3-2) will meet Thornton co-op (13-7-2) in the final set for noon Saturday. Both teams are looking for the first sectional title in their program’s history.
Stagg (8-12-3) came out strong in the first half. Twice the Chargers fired a shot off the crossbar, with John Zajac hammering a free kick off it in the 20th minute and Tom Kulak drawing iron on a header in the 28th minute.
The Porters’ back line of Ray Navarro, Chris Monte and Jack Brassil did a better job slowing the Chargers’ attack in the second half.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and we didn’t match their intensity early,” Brassil said. “We started playing our game, putting the ball on the ground and passing it. In the end, it worked out.”
Jakub Krawczyk made three saves to record the shutout. Erick Estrada had four saves for Stagg.
In the nightcap, seventh-seeded Thornton avenged a regular-season loss to eleventh-seeded Andrew (10-9-2) with a 1-0 win as Mario Graciano headed home a Ricardo Estrada cross off a corner kick in the 28th minute for the game’s only goal.
“We practice corners all the time,” Graciano said. “Coach (David Gonzalez) expects us to score off them. I just got my head on it. I’m just a freshman and this is my second high school goal, so it’s really exciting.”
The Wildcats’ back line of Edgar Estrada, Ruben Salgado and Diego Leon did the job from there, allowing the T-bolts just one shot on goalie Antonio Castro.
Andrew’s Fabian Sustaita and Jonathan Sustaita each fired a shot just off target moments apart early in the second half. The T-Bolts’ best chance after that came in the final minute, when Sean McLaughlin fired high with Castro out of the net.
The Wildcats will play in the sectional final for the second straight season after falling to Sandburg last year.
“We’ve worked hard all year to get back,” Ricardo Estrada said. “We want to keep going and make everyone proud.”