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Coach: Paul Wright
Assistant coaches:
Luis Perez, Robert Fox
Sam Lisak Jr., GK
Joey Pasternak Jr., GK
Tim Huettel Sr., M
Seamus Blaha Jr., M
Noah Fluharty Jr., M
Mike Hoke Sr., M
Quinn Neuman Jr., F
Quentin Drane Jr., M
Joe Gullo Jr., M
Steve Hawthorne Sr., M
Evan Kindler So., M
Jesse Kusimba Sr., F
Erik Arsovski Sr., D
Mavin  Gill Jr., D
Kirk Svensson Jr., D
Bryndon Bush Jr., D
Harry Engoren Jr., F
Stevie Samuels Sr., D
Robbie Holmes Sr., F

Huskies drop home game to rival LT


By Dave Owen

Lyons Township’s offense came in waves Tuesday, with the Lions’ bench making some of the earliest and biggest splashes in a 5-2 win at Oak Park-River Forest.

Having just entered the game with 35:09 left in the first half, Leo Gabrek converted a nice 15-yard shot off a midair deflection of an LT free kick to give the Lions a quick 1-0 lead.

In the 13th minute, LT’s depth was in the spotlight again when Pearman Clarke volleyed a Harry Hilling corner kick from 10 yards out, sending it off the upper left post and into the net to up the lead to 2-0.

The Lions (3-0-2) have scored 16 goals this season, nine in the last two games. And with five different goal scorers on Tuesday, their reservoir of dangerous finishers is tough to match.

“To be honest we have one of the best offenses in the state,” said LT senior Matt Murphy, who ignited the Lions’ next offensive burst with an early goal in the second half. “We have me, Frankie (Kocimski), Cristian (Sanchez), then you could see Leo coming off the bench getting a goal, Harry (Hilling), Shunsuke (Fujii) – it keeps coming.

“We look for those through balls, and once we find them we have such good strikers who are so fast and strong that we can really execute up top. We did that today on the majority of our chances.”

And it was all started Tuesday by the Lions’ great depth.

“We don’t have much of a drop off on our bench,” LT coach Paul Labbato said. “I trust every one of these guys to come in and play. They learn from their mistakes and gain confidence from their good plays.”

Oak Park (2-1-2) may have been reeling from the opening salvos in the conference opener for both WSC Silver rivals, but the Huskies never backed down.

After LT goalkeeper Peter Nolan made a diving save in the 18th minute on a Noah Fluharty break in on the wing, OPRF finished its chance five minutes later.

The LT defense blocked Tim Huettel’s initial attack, but Robbie Holmes nicely lined a 20-yard long rebound blast inside the right post to draw his team within 2-1.

“Their first goal developed from a set play,” OPRF coach Paul Wright said. “Bad choice on our part – we should have cleared that ball out. The second goal we gave up on a set play, a great ball in to a guy we left unmarked at the back post.

“It was nice to get that goal (making it 2-1) and I felt like we had some other chances.”

Defenders came up big on both sides to maintain that score into the half. With 12:45 until the break, LT’s Spiros Kass and Joe Lupano combined to deny Fluharty deep in the box (Lupano blocking a would-be goal). Then on his third good scoring threat late in the half, the Lions’ Patrick Duncan had his deflection of a Hilling corner kick blocked by a crowd of three OPRF defenders at the right post 2:30 before the break.

The wild first half finish was just a prelude to the frenzy to come.

Murphy set the tone just 1:13 into the second half when he intercepted a clearing attempt and powered a 30-yard laser into the left corner of the net for a 3-1 LT lead.

“The start of the second half we try to clear a ball when we had no one in front of us for 20 yards,” Wright said. “We could have dribbled it, instead we clear it right to a kid who has an unbelievable shot.”

Murphy had two more World Cup-worthy efforts in the first 10 minutes of the half. Each time with his back to the net, the senior first sent a header just wide of the post, then with 32:50 left he chipped a no-look shot high off the right post.

Two nice defensive plays by the Huskies’ Bryndon Bush diffused other LT threats, but the Lions appeared to seal the deal with 16:37 left when Kocimski stole a clear attempt of a Danny Thomas cross and put away a low 20-yard shot for a 4-1 Lions’ lead.

“We looked really good today,” LT goalkeeper Peter Nolan said. “Everything came together. Our finishing was just phenomenal. I think the key to it was that we kept the ball moving. We didn’t have any players slowing it down with too many touches. We kept it going as a team and kept moving forward, so we were able to get those chances.”

To Wright, the combination of defensive lapses and LT’s relentless pressure was backbreaking.

“We really beat ourselves with some really bad decisions,” Wright said. “They (LT) have a very nice group of kids. They have different attacks and are throwing balls in to the back post. They’re a really solid team. They finished everything that was created when we made mistakes.”

The biggest mistake of all was counting the Huskies out, despite dwindling time and a 4-1 score.

After an LT foul with 14:14 left, Huettel’s perfectly placed 25-yard free kick found Fluharty free at the left post to cut the deficit to 4-2.

“My job on set pieces is to go the back post,” Fluharty said. “It was a great ball across and we just played through the entire play.”

The Huskies were just getting started. Unfortunately for them, so was Lions’ goalkeeper Nolan.
With 13:15 left, the senior made a lunging one-handed save to somehow deflect Jesse Kusimba’s point-blank blast.

“I saw that he was getting prepared to take a shot,” Nolan said, “so I was able to get over a little bit. At the last second I just threw my body in that direction and was able to get a touch on it.”

“You can never get complacent in games like this against teams like that,” Murphy said. “They score one goal and the momentum changes, and if they sneak another one in there, it’s a one-goal game. They almost scored two goals in like 30 seconds. You always have to keep the intensity up.”

After enduring two more Oak Park chances in the box, Nolan starred again with 3:15 to play when he deflected another Kusimba chance in traffic just wide of the post. LT’s Emilio Godinez headed away the ensuing corner kick.

“Their goalkeeper was the man of the match, without a doubt,” Wright said. “He was unbelievable.”

“Our defense shut it down, and Peter had an amazing second half,” Murphy said. “OPRF had a solid late run to try to tie the game up. They never gave up.”

The never-quit style was small consolation for the Huskies.

“The last 15 (minutes) we battled, but we still have to put away our chances,” Fluharty said. “I’m sure there are positives that we battled really hard for the last 15 minutes, but it has to be for the whole half.

“Coach Wright tells us it all starts with 50/50 balls, and I felt like we were losing 50/50 balls as they kept putting pressure on us.”

The Lions’ offense fittingly had the last word. Minutes after OPRF goalkeeper Sam Lisak had robbed Godinez on a diving save of an 8-yard shot, Hilling stole a clearing attempt with five seconds left and put away a 25-yard shot for the 5-2 final.

“Harry Hilling played outstanding in the center mid,” Labbato said. “He was so calm in this fast-paced game, where Oak Park guys were running at everybody fast. He was calm, touching the ball, making plays and distributing at center mid. And our center backs Dustin Warf and Joe Lupano in the run of play played pretty well closing things down. And Joe Lupano I think stayed in the entire game.

“We’re still working it out defensively,” Labbato added. “Teams are catching us off guard. We’re not putting a full 80 minutes together offensively and defensively. We were good for the first 15, then we cruised a little bit and they got that one. They just hung around.”
The win begins a big week for LT, which hosts York Thursday before opening play in the elite Pepsi Showdown tournament on Saturday.

“We needed this win,” Labbato said. “Every year Oak Park plays us very well, and usually here we struggle. So to five goals on the board is important against a good, organized Oak Park team. We’ll try to carry this on into the next conference game and Pepsi.”

Murphy has his sights set on the week and beyond.

“We have to get all the momentum we can going into Pepsi,” he said. “Plus conference last year we fell short, and one of our team goals is to win conference. It’s a great way to start it against a great team. We have to make sure and keep the effort we gave today, especially for (Hinsdale) Central (on Sept. 28). That’s going to be a heck of a matchup.”

OPRF has its own blueprint for future success.

“Winning the 50/50 balls and putting away our chances,” Fluharty said. “This (game) would have gone our way if we had put away our chances, so we have to work on that.”

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