The momentum and manpower situation were going against Downers South on Thursday.
Then Jordan Pawlicki came to the rescue.
The senior forward ran onto a long pass from Mike Flores and scored a shorthanded goal with 15:01 remaining in the second half as the host Mustangs hung on for a 2-1 victory over upset-minded Bartlett in Downers Grove.
The goal was Pawlicki’s third of the season and all have been important. Two were game-winners and the other secured a 1-1 tie against No. 1 Hinsdale Central.
“We usually work on not playing direct but Mike, he played a great ball and our wingers played a great game the entire time to open up space for me,” Pawlicki said. “We tried to work off each other in the second half.”
Until his breakaway goal, not much had been going right for Downers South (5-3-2), which came out flat after Senior Night festivities.
The Mustangs did grab a 1-0 lead with 24:52 to go in the first half when Pawlicki sprung Jimmy Kruse on a breakaway, but after that Bartlett had the better of the play.
The Hawks (0-8-1), who have won just two of their last 29 matches, outshot the Mustangs 9-4 in the second half and tied the game when A.J. Santori headed home a throw-in from Justin Busch with 23:32 left.
The visitors appeared poised to take the lead when Downers South defender Scott Holakovsky was given an automatic red card for tripping a Bartlett player to prevent a breakaway at the 19:48 mark.
Bartlett’s Marcus Singleton unleashed a 30-yard rocket on the ensuing free kick, but Mustangs goalkeeper Nick King made the stop. King, who finished with 10 saves, had denied Singleton on a similar free kick in the first half, leaping to tip a shot over the crossbar.
“It was tough because we had the momentum and we were dominating the game and they just came down and scored,” Singleton said. “We were the better team but didn’t get the result. We’ve got to finish our chances but we’re playing a lot better, as evidenced in this game.”
Downers South coach Jon Stapleton would not disagree.
“To get a win on Senior Night is nice, but it’s an eye-opener for us,” Stapleton said. “They’re good. I know their record doesn’t reflect what type of team they have.
“We didn’t play particularly well. At least Jordan was able to finish one when it mattered most and being a man down, we’re showing some resiliency, which is good.”