Bison's postseason run ends vs. Barrington
By Gary Larsen
Barrington knocked on the door last year, losing 2-1 to eventual state champion Warren in a sectional title game. In Friday’s sectional final against Buffalo Grove, the Broncos pushed that door open.
"It feels so great," Barrington junior defender Shawn Owen said after his side’s 3-1 win. "It's unbelievable. I can't even explain it. Surreal is a good word because I can't really describe what it feels like right now."
Barrington (19-3-4) got goals from Owen, Logan Morris, and David Conrad in the win, and all came after Buffalo Grove (8-9-6) took an early 1-0 lead on a Zach Masciopinto goal.
When the final buzzer sounded, the top seed of the Mundelein sectional celebrated wildly over its sixth sectional crown in program history.
"This doesn't happen that often,” Broncos coach Scott Steib said. “We've had some really good teams that didn't make it this far, and it's great when you have a really good team that does. I hope the boys are inspired to carry on and I think they are. This is probably the most happy I've seen them but I think they're very focused on never being satisfied, and that's good.
"I feel physically worn out, almost like I played. It's exhausting. There's a lot of adversity out there tonight, in terms of the elements and other things."
A steady rain provided some adversity while Buffalo Grove provided those “other things”, as a No. 15 seed that battled tooth-and-nail in a game of MSL rivals. Barrington won 1-0 over BG in their regular-season meeting on Sept. 24, on a penalty kick goal in the game’s final minute.
The Bison knew they could compete with the Broncos, and they did.
"We didn't come out on the field tonight to lose; we came out here to win and I thought we could win," Buffalo Grove coach Rick Carlson said. "I thought we could battle them. We battled them last time for 80 minutes and that was what we talked about all week, was coming into this game and coming here to win. We played to win, with the heart to win, and we battled."
BG grabbed its 1-0 lead when Daniel Ramirez sent a perfect freekick to the Barrington goalmouth from roughly 50 yards out, with the game only 7 minutes old.
Masciopinto backed up to the goal line and flicked it over Barrington’s all-state junior keeper, Pat Deroche.
Barrington answered the bell, finding feet and applying steady pressure on BG’s half of the field after Masciopinto’s goal. The equalizer came on a beauty of a strike from Logan Morris taken from 25 yards out, that whipped past the post at 17 minutes.
"We let (Morris) hit the ball, unmarked from thirty yards out, he's a good player and he's going to whack it home," Carlson said. "There's not a whole lot (BG keeper) Ricardo (Valencia) is going to do about that."
“For Logan to have that moment of brilliance when we're down one goal -- that's a great, great goal and that's a huge moment,” Steib said. “That, in itself, probably gives him man of the match in my book."
From there to halftime, the Broncos kept the pressure on, with Connor Hennelly playing a whale of a first half at midfield. Hennelly picked his way through a crowd of BG players to the endline at 22 minutes and earned a corner kick, which ended with Austin Grzebieniak sending a quality chance just high of frame.
The Bison were dangerous primarily on the counter and Pat Tucharski nearly ran onto a through-ball a minute after Morris’ goal, but Owen tracked back to destroy the play to a corner kick. The BG corner resulted in Allan Santiaguillo firing high from long-range.
The Bison knew they couldn’t allow Barrington as much space to knock it around in the second half.
"We thought we made some nice adjustments at halftime, taking some of that space away in the midfield and marking a little bit better," Carlson said. "We did a lot of what we wanted to. We wanted to win a lot of fifty-fifties and we won a ton of them.
“We didn't do that at all against Carmel (in a 2-1 semifinal win). We pounded that home this week in film session and in practice and I thought we came out and gave it to them."
Conrad hit a shot off the crossbar at 46 minutes from deep on the left side, and Valencia charged off his line to punch away a Giles Phillips cross at 50 minutes.
The Broncos took the lead at 53 minutes when Conrad got on the end of a Tyler Anderson cross and headed it home at the far post, and made it 3-1 two minutes later when Owen headed in Jamie Tausend’s corner kick from point-blank range.
The Bison nearly made it a one-goal game at 69 minutes but Owen cleared a ball off the goal line, and the Broncos hung on from there.
After struggling to finish with frequency for a large part of the season, Barrington has been lighting up the scoreboard in the postseason with 13 goals in four state playoff games, and 18 in their last six games.
"We've been working on quick passing and making attacking runs and playing dangerous balls, and we practice finishing, and it all came out and showed on the field," Morris said. "It was really a matter of perfecting it and then getting the nitty-gritty work of finding the net."
But look around at some of the teams playing in sectional title games this weekend, and the old sports adage that offense gets the glory but defense wins championships is borne out by the facts of yet another soccer postseason.
St. Charles East, which plays Lake Park for a 3A sectional title Saturday, has only given up an average of .6 goals per game through 25 games played, while Lake Park’s goals-against average is .83 through 24 games. Naperville Central boasts a GAA of .8 this season and Class 2A sectional champion Wheaton Academy has a .76 average heading into next week’s supersectional round.
Barrington has them all beat. After Friday’s win, the Broncos have now given up only 12 goals in 26 games. That’s a paltry average of .46 goals per game, and defenders Owen, Anderson, Tausend, and Jason Frenk were rock-solid yet again on Friday in front of keeper Deroche.
"I'd trust our backline with my life," Owen said. "It's such an airtight backline. We've got good chemistry and it helps to have (Phillips) in front of us. He's a workhorse."
The Broncos move on to play the winner of Saturday’s sectional final between Evanston and another MSL rival in Wheeling, which beat Barrington on PK’s in this year’s MSL title game.
For Buffalo Grove, the postseason provided further proof that the Bison could compete with anyone. They entered regional play with a 4-8-6 record before winning four consecutive games to reach Friday’s sectional final.
A 3-0 win over Zion-Benton preceded a 1-0 win over defending state champ and No. 2 seed Warren. Then came a 2-1 win over Palatine in a regional title game and a 2-1 win over Carmel.
The Bison tied six times and three of their losses came by a single goal. All-sectional defender Allan Santiaguillo was a warrior this year for Carlson’s team.
"Allan has just played his heart out all year and I don't how you replace a kid like Allan," Carlson said. "All the others, too -- Pat (Tucharski) and Daniel (Ramirez) gave it all tonight.
"Maybe they haven’t been overly vocal in the way they lead but they lead by example -- Allan, Zach, and Danny were all good leaders this year.”
Seniors Santiaguillo, Ramirez, Valencia, and Tucharski will depart the BG program, along with Matt Hamburger, Nick Pilli, Antonio Gonzalez, and Sam Abduganiev.
Ramirez left the field in Mundelein proud of the run his side made, and the way it competed in 2013.
"I knew we had this in us because we were right there with every team we played, even Barrington, and Wheeling -- with every good team, we were right there,” Ramirez said.
"We had a different person step up every single (postseason) game. Drew (Brauner) stepped up, Todor (Dimitrov) stepped up, Zach stepped up, and Ricardo came up with huge saves for us.”
Last year’s Bison were loaded with talent but weren’t able to win a regional title, while this year’s side managed to secure the 10th regional crown in program history.
"This year was different from last year,” Ramirez said. “Last year we had better individual players but this year was more about teamwork, and players pulling together. We had such good chemistry. We all meshed together so well."
"I'll miss everything -- going to practice every day and working with these guys. And coach is amazing at motivating us. Every game, he'd get us all hyped up and ready to go in. I'll miss everything.
"It sucks that it ends. I'd love for it to keep going forever.”