Usually, a soccer player wins a game with his feet. Perhaps his head.
Lockport’s Vinnie Smithwick, though, won Tuesday’s game with his arms.
The Porters scored twice off Smithwick throw-ins, once with 14 seconds left in regulation and once in the second overtime, to rally for a stunning 2-1 win over Sandburg in a SouthWest Suburban Blue game in Orland Park.
“Every once in a while, we’ll do a part of practice where me and (Chris Monte) will work on plays off throw-ins and just work on throwing to a spot,” Smithwick said. “I guess it’s paying off.”
With the victory, Lockport (10-3-2, 3-0) is in prime position to capture its second straight Blue crown, having already knocked off the top contenders in the Eagles (9-5-2, 2-1) and Bolingbrook with three games to go.
“For us to repeat as conference champions would be absolutely insane,” Smithwick said. “Before last year, it was unheard of for Lockport to do this.”
The goals were scored in identical fashion, with Smithwick unleashing his cannon from the left sideline and Sandburg goalie Derek McCurdy attempting to make a play on the ball only to have it go off his hands and in.
Untouched by a Lockport player, they’ll both go down as own goals, but there’s no doubting the impact Smithwick made.
“We have that weapon from both sides of the field and that’s huge,” Lockport coach Chris Beal said. “We got a lot of chances off throws from Vinnie and (Monte) and it was frustrating because in the first 20 minutes, we had four headers in the box off them and couldn’t score.”
The Porters, indeed, missed out on a bevy of scoring chances in each half as a Sandburg squad that was missing four starters – three due to injury and one to a red card – constantly dodged bullets to keep its lead.
When McCurdy (5 saves) stopped a Jack Dilger header with 3:12 to go, it appeared Lockport’s best chances were behind it.
“I was beginning to think it was one of those nights,” Beal said. “The boys didn’t give up. They thought maybe if we got one last chance, we’d make it pay off.”
That’s exactly what happened as Smithwick’s throw-in, on what surely was Lockport’s last chance of regulation, found its way in. The game-winner came with 8:02 left in the second overtime.
Sandburg’s goal came on a counter-attack as Michael Margas made a nice pass to Matt Michalowski, who buried a shot with 4:26 left in the first half.
“No matter the score, I’m really proud of these guys,” Sandburg coach Desi Vuillaume said. “We had four starters out; we had one senior on the field all night. (Smithwick) can really throw the ball and that causes a lot of problems. Give them credit.”