Cadets' strong second half tops Plainfield Central
By Matt Le Cren
Fichtel Field in Aurora remained a field of dreams for Marmion on Thursday as the host Cadets continued their remarkable late-season run toward the state playoffs.
But for Plainfield Central, the stadium was a house of horrors of sorts.
After a competitive first half that saw the Wildcats match the Cadets stride for stride, the match turned one-sided after intermission as Marmion rolled to a 3-0 Senior Night victory.
It was the sixth straight win for the Cadets (12-6-2), who sent seniors Mick Wangler, Jack Maley, Luke DeSimone, Flynn Collins, Jake Hutchison, Michael Bila and Cam Sweeney off as winners in their final home game.
“We started all the seniors for the second half,” Hutchison said. “It was just a great feeling seeing it. We’re all a group of best friends and seeing us get a win gives us a lot of confidence going into our regional. It’s a good memory of the night.”
The irony of Marmion’s inspired play is that the Cadets have done it without the services of their top player, Collins, who is out for the season with a broken jaw. In the most inspiring moment of the match, Collins was able to cap his high school career by starting the game and booting the kickoff down the field before being subbed out.
Collins was leading the team in scoring with 15 goals when he was injured Sept. 26. The Cadets haven’t lost since then, getting contributions from all over the field, most notably from Hutchison, who has played four different positions this season, and junior midfielder Gavin Sanchez, who scored twice against Plainfield Central to up his goal total to 14.
“After the St. Charles East tournament we said it was a new season,” DeSimone said. “We started with a tie and since then we’ve been getting better and better. We’re all jelling as one unit and coming together.
“I would definitely saw we don’t have the most skilled player in the state, but we’re one of the most solid [teams] all throughout the field.”
The Cadets showed that by keeping a clean sheet despite being outshot 8-6 in the first half by Plainfield Central (9-6-4), which had several good scoring chances before the break.
Sophomore goalie Matt Fletcher made all four of his saves in the opening period, including one on a scramble in the box in which the Wildcats had three hacks at a loose ball when he was on the ground. Senior forwards Miguel Duran and Nick Evans both misfired on open shots in the box, with Duran sending a volley wide right and Evans drilling a shot just over the crossbar.
But things were much different in the second half. Marmion completely dominated the action to finish the year 5-0-1 at Fichtel Field, which included wins in the last five outings.
Sanchez got the scoring started with 32:51 left when he ran onto a nice feed from DeSimone and sent a 12-yard shot inside the right post.
That opened the floodgates as the Cadets scored two more goals in a span of 2:09 to increase the lead to 3-0 with 25:18 remaining. DeSimone scored off an assist from Sanchez and then Hutchison set up Sanchez for the third one. Both goals arguably could have been stopped.
“We played well in the first half and we forgot that there’s two halves,” Plainfield Central coach Kevin Fitzgerald said. “We didn’t give a good effort. That was kind of the bottom line. You can’t win games against good teams while giving a poor effort.”
That wasn’t the case in the first half, which made the Wildcats’ second-half struggles all the more baffling.
“I felt like we had enough chances,” Fitzgerald said. “I told them at halftime we should be winning. We had chances but we didn’t finish them and it comes back to haunt you. We had the goalie on the ground and the ball’s loose and we can’t finish that?
“Then we all quit once they scored a goal. It’s a disappointing effort.”
The problem wasn’t so much with Plainfield Central’s back line, which found itself constantly chasing the ball in the final 40 minutes. The Wildcats’ defenders did well to keep the score as close as it was, but they got no help from the midfielders or forwards.
“I thought some of the guys in back played well,” Fitzgerald said. “Tom [Poznanski] was great tonight. It seems like he gets better almost every game. I thought Gage [Wuestenfield] played pretty well, too.
“But I’m confused by the lack of effort in Game 20. Nothing else matters if you’re going to give a poor effort. You could be the best team in the state and still lose if you play like this.”
In contrast, Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro was impressed with the effort of his troops, some of whom were playing their fourth match in as many days.
“A lot of our kids, not the starting 11, play JV so we’ve had a long week,” Del Toro said. “We played JV on Monday, varsity Tuesday, JV yesterday and now this game, so I think the kids responded well.”
“I thought it was a good effort,” he said. “First half we didn’t really have anything. Then the second half we started playing to feet, getting good touches and getting opportunities.”