Eric Whatley saw the time on the clock, knew the situation and knew he needed to make a play Monday night.
“I saw there were less than two minutes on the clock,” the Lemont senior sweeper said. “I knew that we needed this game. Conference was on the line. I just tried my best to get a challenge on goal.”
Whatley got his head on John Bermele’s cross and buried the game-winner with 1:42 left in the game as the Indians squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Argo in a South Suburban crossover in Summit.
With the win, Lemont (9-2-3, 6-1) maintained control of its own destiny in the South Suburban Blue with four games to play. T.F. United also has one conference loss, to Lemont, though its remaining league slate is tough.
The Argonauts (8-5, 4-2), meanwhile, saw their fate in the Red slip out of their hands as they will now need an Eisenhower loss to have a shot at the crown.
Whatley’s winner came after Argo was called for a foul near the corner flag, giving Lemont a free kick that played much like a corner. Bermele played his cross to the middle of the box and Whatley out-leaped a pair of Argo defenders for the header.
“Argo is a good side and they defended well and I figured it’d come down to a late goal,” Lemont coach Rick Prangen said. “It came down to us earning that set piece in the final third and putting it away.”
It was the second game-winning goal in a row for Whatley, who also scored the winner Saturday against Reavis. The captain has provided an offensive boost while anchoring the Indians’ stout defense.
“Set pieces are huge for us,” Whatley said. “I just am looking to get involved when I can and help us score.”
Connor Koehler (four saves) recorded the shutout, getting plenty of help from Whatley, Michael Prasauskas and Nick Simaidis in the back.
“Our D-line did an awesome job,” Koehler said. “Our midfielders played great, too. Winning this game like this was a huge step for us.”
It was a deflating end for Argo after turning in a tremendous second-half effort. With strong winds at their back in the final 40 minutes, the Argonauts had plenty of chances.
Koehler made a big stop on a Michal Szlachta shot early in the second half. Argo had two great chances late as Antonio Martinez fired a laser just wide and Geraldo Flores sailed a shot just over the crossbar.
Marco Soto made three saves for the Argonauts.
“We dominated the second half,” Argo coach John Gaytan said. “We had a lot of chances and we just didn’t finish. Lemont is a good team and they finished a chance and that was the difference.”