Jonathan Rosales was battered by the opening haymakers St. Viator threw at him. The St. Joseph goalkeeper had not surrendered a goal this year.
Everything changed quickly as the Lions struck in the opening five minutes on a blast from the 15-yard line by midfielder Zach Gyuricza.
“It was a counterattack and I didn’t expect them to come at me in the first five minutes of the game like that,” Rosales said. “I expected the defense to step up a little more.”
But Rosales recorded a dramatic block of the Lions’ fifth shooter in the penalty kick phase and junior midfielder Aaron Rivera converted his shot as the No. 4 Chargers outlasted No. 6 St. Viator 4-3 in a Class 2A state semifinal Friday at Hoffman Estates.
St. Joseph (23-0-1) advanced to meet top-ranked Wheaton Academy in the state title Saturday afternoon. St. Joseph’s 1997 runner-up Class A team is the only other Chargers’ program to play in a state title game.
The game was tied at 2-2 at the end of regulation and 3-3 following the two overtimes.
St. Joseph captured the shootout 5-4.
Manny Lopez, Eduardo Gutierrez, Anthony Gulli and Dylan Robledo each converted in establishing the backdrop of Rivera’s game-winner.
“I just had my teammates talk to me and that’s it,” Rivera said of the moments leading to his shot.
The teams manufactured enough momentum swings for a season.
“It felt like we were playing two games,” Gutierrez said.
He scored two goals and assisted another as the Chargers stormed back from a 2-0 halftime deficit.
Rosales credited former Chargers’ goalkeeper Jovani Castanon, the starter on St. Joseph’s third-place team of 2008.
“He took us to state and he has taught me a lot of things,” Rosales said.
“He taught me how the kickers move and how to watch their body language and knowing the instincts. I knew he was there in the stands, and he was telling me, in my head, to remember what he taught me.
“At that moment I decided to go to my right because I knew the shooter was going there.”
St. Viator (21-6-1) dominated the first half. Senior forward Aidan Williams pushed the team’s advantage to 2-0 in the 28th minute.
Coach Mike Taylor said the game was lost there.
“With better luck there, we could have been up 4-0 or 5-0 in the first half,” Taylor said. “We had a couple of balls hit the bar, I don’t know how they didn’t go in, their keeper made some good saves.
Not getting those scores came back to haunt us. They got the goal early in the second half and in high school soccer, it’s all about the momentum and they got it from us.”
Guitterez scored his team-leading 21st and 22nd goals to power the comeback. His volley inside the box in the 52nd minute produced the first tie. He appeared to give the Chargers the victory after playing a beautiful through ball from Jovany Aceves five minutes into the first overtime.
“At halftime I was just giving everybody words of encouragement, saying even though we were down we still had 40 minutes of soccer left and we’re not going home,” Gutierrez said.
St. Viator demonstrated its own resolve as Williams and Gyuricza collaborated again, in the 96th minute, as Williams punched in a short ball that led to the shootout.
“The long-standing rivalry of St. Viator and St. Joseph is still alive, even if we don’t play in the same conference anymore,” St. Joseph coach Stanley Niemiec said. “This is the first time in my career we beat Viator.
“We played like garbage in the first half. We were dazed. We stepped it up and played how we have played the whole year,” he said.