Will McGowen’s game-winner gives Hinsdale Central Class 3A crown

SHARE Will McGowen’s game-winner gives Hinsdale Central Class 3A crown
SHARE Will McGowen’s game-winner gives Hinsdale Central Class 3A crown

From the glorious and thrilling moment of what happened in the 73rd minute, the sequence takes on its own word formation. Call it “The Throw.”

Standing on the left edge, Hinsdale Central specialist Evan Floersch took a throw-in that midfielder Bryan Loebig back-tapped with his head and defender Will McGowen alertly redirected with his own glancing header.

McGowen expertly curved his shot inside the near post for the dramatic game-winner as No. 2 Hinsdale Central stunned previously undefeated Normal 1-0 for the Class 3A state championship Saturday night at Hoffman Estates.

Hinsdale Central (19-4-4) captured its first soccer title since 1975.

The Red Devils completed a remarkable state tournament run by defeating rival Lyons, previously top-ranked Morton, Naperville North, Fremd and the Ironmen (23-1-2) by one goal each.

“This team never had any quit,” Hinsdale Central coach Mike Wiggins said.

McGowen scored the game-winning goals against Morton and Naperville North and made two brilliant defensive clears in the furious closing moments against Fremd in a state semifinal.

Interestingly enough, the architect of the game-winner was not impressed with his initial effort.

“I actually thought it was not that great of a throw to be honest,” Floersch said, “but Bryan got underneath it and made a great flick and McGowen tries every single game to get out on the end of those plays and he was able to do that.”

Normal had the superior play at the start. Star forward Eddie Plesha lofted a ball on the run over the reach of Hinsdale Central keeper Wes Bergevin and the ball took a bounce and hit off the crossbar in the second minute of play.

In the 19th minute Plesha drove deep into the Red Devils’ end and blasted a ball from the right edge that pulled just wide of the goal. Normal exhibited pace and superior tempo and forced the Red Devils to adapt to their style.

“I should have put a couple of those away,” Plesha said.

After withstanding the early pressure, Hinsdale Central asserted its own control and authority as it has throughout the tournament posting a succession of razor-thin victories that included two wins by penalty shootouts.

“We stayed within ourselves and our system and that’s what made this team,” Wiggins said.

Patiently and emphatically the Red Devils found their groove and established a confidence and belief in their ability to pull it out. Normal saw its attack fracture the further the game went. “I thought we played a fantastic first half,” Normal coach Brian Pelton.

“We created a lot of opportunities and we were just unfortunate, a ball that hits the crossbar, a shot that probably missed by an inch. If we get any one of those five or six great chances we had it completely changes the game.”

Hinsdale Central created its own template ofstifling defense, the superb goalkeeping of Bergevin and utilizing the sometimes-exotic free kicks and long throw-ins from Floersch to generate scoring chances.

The Red Devils’ second-half play was elegant, simple and intensely effective.

“I don’t think they changed anything tactically but in the second half they just put in the effort to get every first and second ball and that gave them confidence and swayed the game,” Pelton said.

The state title is the fifth by Hinsdale Central this fall. “It is something we talk about a lot at school is the pride we have,” Loebig said. “We have a saying that it’s great to be a Red Devil.”

In the third-place game, senior forward Zach Schoffstall scored three goals as No. 3 Fremd blitzed Streamwood 4-0. Schoffstall scored twice in the first half in staking the Vikings (20-6-1) to a 2-0 halftime lead. Danny Burton added a goal. Despite the loss, the Sabres (17-7-2) won their first state trophy in program history.

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