Big school, underdog team

Updated: 9/24/12 8:35 a.m.

Sun-Times: Lyons hands Morton first loss in Pepsi final

Can you still be an underdog when you’re the biggest school in the state?

I think you can if you’re the Morton boys soccer team. The underdog role suit the Mustangs perfectly last season as the school won its first state title in any sport since softball in 1986. That was the first year East and West combined to compete under one Morton banner. Today, the enrollment of both schools in Berwyn and Cicero add up to a whopping 8,170 students. No other school can come close to that.

Morton’s previous state title for a boys sport was baseball in 1970 for East.

Morton, the defending Class 3A state champions, are back again moving to 15-0 after beating Hinsdale South 1-0 Thursday night in Darien.

The Mustangs will play their biggest game of the season at 12:15 p.m. p.m. Sunday in the Pepsi Showdown final against Lyons (10-2-1) at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. The game was originally scheduled to be played at Wrigley Field, but moved back to its usual home.

Morton is fun to watch. The players lack the size of usual suburban super powers such as recent state champions from Lyons (2009) or New Trier and Barrington. Its biggest and best player is 6-foot-2 defender Joel Leon, who plays in front of returning keeper Ian Chacon. The Mustangs win with speed. Lightning quick speed propelled by someone such as varsity newcomer Abel Guzman, a 5-foot-3 senior with a team-leading 12 goals this season. As you can detect, getting Guzman and Leon in the same picture can be a challenge.

After winning the state title, Morton no longer feels like an underdog.

“Everyone has a target on us right now,” Guzman said.

“We’re undefeated,” Leon said. “Now we want to go all the way undefeated.”

That didn’t happen last season as the Mustangs lost three times.

English is not the team’s first language. Players speak Spanish on the playing field. All 26 players on the roster are Hispanic, but coach Mike Caruso shouts instructions from the sideline in English. Some other key starters are Giovani Garcia, Julio Pedroza, Luis Alvarado and Robert Avila.

These are the players that have become the foundation for a rising power in the state soccer scene.

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