The improbable isn’t the same as the impossible, but the comeback that Crystal Lake South’s boys’ soccer team made against Cary-Groveon Wednesdaynearly defied belief.
Trailing 2-0 with only nine minutes left in regulation, South scored twice to tie the game and then won 3-2 on an overtime goal in their Class 3A regional semifinal game.
“Now I believe in miracles,” South goalkeeper Gus Alvarez said. “I’m speechless right now.”
Cary-Grove (11-8) controlled most of the contest and got goals from Joey Klawitter and Kevin Wilde, while keeping Crystal Lake South (9-11-3) from getting much more than a sniff of a shot on net.
That changed when Gatorfreshman Andrew Grabowski scored from 8 yards out in the game’s 71stminute, on a feed from Orlando Tapia. Grabowski then tied the game at 75 minutes on a wicked shot from 16 yards out that kissed the underside of the crossbar and stretched the back netting.
And to think, Grabowski began the year on South’s JVteam.
“Probably my mistake,” Gators coach Brian Allen said, laughing. “When we shifted our formation we moved him up to varsity and he’s just been playing out of his mind. He’s such an unselfish player but he didn’t hesitate when he had a scoring chance today. He just let it rip.”
The Gators rode their momentum into the first of two mandatory 10-minute overtime periods. Senior Gary Sexson found a ball at his foot 25 yards out from the Cary goal and with four minutes gone in the first OT, he took a chance.
“I just saw the ball coming out of the box and I thought ‘why not try to be the hero?,’” Sexson said. “It felt great. This is the best feeling I’ve had all year.”
After Sexson’s shot banged in off the post, Cary-Grove battled for an equalizing goal that never came. The second-seeded Trojans beat third-seeded South in a shootout, 2-1, in their regular-season Fox Valley Conference game on Oct. 1.
Wednesday’s win sends host South to a regional title game against top-seeded McHenry (11-8-3)on Saturday. The Gators beat FVC rival McHenry 2-0 on Oct. 3 but they know what they’re up against in the rematch.
“(McHenry coach Tony) Caruso runs a first-class program, they’re hard-working, and they’re going to make you earn everything you get,” Allen said. “We’ll be in another dogfight.”