One perfect flick with 12 seconds left in a scoreless game Thursday, and Morton sophomore Leo Delgado sent his squad to the semifinals of this year’s Pepsi Showdown.
The Mustangs’ 1-0 win over Huntley was clinched when Jovany Garcia sent in a free kick from 28 yards out that found Delgado in the goalmouth.
“There was a defender on my back and I thought he was going to get it,” Delgado said. “But he didn’t.”
Instead, Delgado’s head shot from 6 yards out slid under the crossbar, sending Morton to Saturday’s semifinal round, where the Mustangs will play Thursday’s winner between Wheaton Academy and Warren.
“I figured this game was going to come down to a dead ball,” Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. “They ran the same play we run, and they ran it very well.”
Third-seeded host Huntley (9-1-1) and sixth-seeded Morton (7-1) played an action-packed second half that saw both Mustangs keeper Ian Chacon and Red
Raiders keeper Austen Emery make a handful of saves that on most nights, by most keepers, simply shouldn’t have been made.
Late in the game, Emery made a fine save at the post on a point-blank head shot and Chacon tipped a ball off the crossbar and quickly hit the turf to save the follow-up attempt by Huntley’s Niko Mihalopoulos.
“I should have hit it in the corner,” Mihalopoulos said. “But both keepers played great tonight.”
After a fairly pedestrian first half, a wild second half of soccer saw Morton withstand a barrage of Huntley pressure in the first 20 minutes after halftime.
“Huntley plays hard and they make up ground as quick as any team I’ve seen,” Morton coach Mike Caruso said. “Their motor is going the whole game.
“The light bulb finally went on in my head and I moved Jovany Garcia to the middle, and we got more possession in the final twenty minutes of the game. And [Chacon] kept us in it when we needed him.”
“We played hard. We busted it,” Mihalopoulos said. “[Morton] came out and gave us good competition, and it was a tough game. I’m sure everyone on my team enjoyed the competition we got from them tonight.”