Coach: Jose Villa
Assistants: Cesar Gomez
Paolino Mansera Sr.
Eduardo Suarez Fr.
Ricardo Esparza Sr.
Alexis Quezada Jr.
Hajar Agha Jr.
Missael Duran So.
Jerry Medina Sr.
Vicente Tirado * Sr.
Quentin Virgen Sr.
Renato Bonilla Fr.
Jon Garcia Jr.
Cesar Nieves So.
Alfredo Villa Sr.
Jesus Fernandez * Jr.
Edgar Arechiga Sr.
Antonio Velazquez Jr.
Oswaldo Estrada Jr.
Alejandro Villa Sr.
* denotes captain


Wildcats get past Wolves in regional opener


By Matt Le Cren

By the time the playoffs roll around, coaches have done enough scouting to know what to expect from their opponents.

West Chicago coach Jose Villa, however, deployed a secret weapon during Friday’s postseason opener with host Oswego East and as a result his team is moving on.

Junior Angel Santana made his varsity debut for the Wildcats and scored the game-winning goal with 57 seconds remaining in the first half as No. 17-seed West Chicago knocked off the 16th-seeded Wolves 2-1 in a Class 3A Metea Valley Regional quarterfinal.

The win was the second straight for West Chicago (2-15-3), which advances to face top-seeded Naperville Central at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Metea Valley.

“It’s something that’s awesome to see,” Villa said. “Our lower levels won conference our first year in the Upstate Eight Conference but [the promotion] wasn’t just for that.

“[Santana] is a junior and he’s been playing well and he’s one that always works hard. Definitely he has earned this opportunity to come up with us and what better way to [debut] than to score the game-winning goal. So good stuff by him just being at the right place at the right time and finishing. That was great to see.”

Santana had finished up his season on the J-V level and had no idea he would be promoted to varsity.

“Like two days ago I was called up,” Santana said. “I was actually surprised and I was looking forward to [this game].”

Santana made his mark when he tapped in a four-yard shot after sneaking behind the defense and receiving a cross from senior Edgar Arechiga, who had received a pass from senior Jerry Medina and beaten a defender into the left side of the penalty area.

“We started from the midfield,” Arechiga said. “We got a pass right to the side. I saw an easy one, took it. I hit it right to Angel. It was just there, like the coach always told us: corner, middle, you always find a guy right there.”

Just like that, the Wildcats had all the momentum heading into halftime.

“It feels great,” Santana said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just great to come together and make the team work together. We did it together, not just one person.”

Santana was welcomed to the varsity with open arms and plenty of instruction from his teammates.

“The team actually gave him advice,” Arechiga said. “When you come to varsity it’s hard work and you’ve just got to come prepared. You’ve got to go in hard. J-V and varsity are different levels. It’s tougher out here.”

As it has been all season, the going was tough for the Wildcats, who fell behind 1-0 when Oswego East (3-12-1) scored on a great piece of teamwork with 12:26 remaining in the opening period.

Senior midfielder Nathaniel Paisley drilled a 25-yard shot off the inside of the right post and the ball caromed toward the left side of the penalty area. Freshman Victor Cuevas quickly tracked it down and sent a perfect cross in front to Alex Esquivel for a quick score.

But the visitors didn’t trail for long as sophomore Freddy Flores alertly pounced on a rebound off a shot by freshman Eduardo Suarez to tie the game at the 10:20 mark.

“That was pretty big because we were all like, Oh, we don’t have any more chances,’” Santana said. “But luckily for us Freddy scored a goal, gave us some momentum. We’re like, ‘let’s go, let’s go, we can do it.’”

Oswego East keeper Alex Santillan made a diving stop on Suarez’s initial shot, but Villa figured he might give up a rebound or two.

“Freddy came on and that was huge for us, obviously, that we get it right back,” Villa said. “We said to make sure to follow every shot and he was at the right end just like Angel. It’s probably one of the easiest goals you’re ever going to score.”

The two goals were about the only easy things either side had in a hard-fought defensive struggle. Shots were at a premium, with West Chicago managing 11 and surrendering only three.

Most impressively for the Wildcats, they held Wolves star Sean Phetchanpheng without a shot as Suarez, Alfredo Villa, Jesus Fernandez and Antonio Velazquez took turns keeping an eye on the elusive striker.

“We knew coming in that he was probably going to be their most dangerous offensive player, so we talked about his speed and our need to contain him and if we can to double him,” Jose Villa said.

“I don’t think they had many opportunities in the run of play, especially second half where he was kind of shut down. I think our defensive unit did a great job of knowing what to expect and knowing what his abilities were and we were kind of able to shut that down.”

The Wildcats did give up several free kicks in their own end during the second half but the Wolves never did anything with them and rarely ventured into the West Chicago box. Wildcats goalie Paolino Mansera had to make only one save.

“I think we played really good together,” Santana said. “We were talking a lot to each other, moving the ball around. Communication was key.”

Now the Wildcats get a shot at Naperville Central (13-2-2), which has finished second in the state the past two seasons.

“We’re pretty much the underdogs,” Arechiga said. “You can tell by the season that we had. We had a tough season, but you know what? We’re coming back strong. We’re going to bounce back. We’re looking forward to Tuesday.”

“It’s actually a big chance because coming from the underdogs they don’t expect anything,” Santana said. “We’re going to come out tough and give them the best game that we have.”

Oswego East coach Steve Szymanski felt his squad did that late in the season.

“I think our four or five games we really started to come together and started playing harder and more as a team, connecting passes a little bit better,” Szymanski said. “So [this loss] is discouraging but if you look at our lineup we had seven underclassmen out there. We had four freshmen and three sophomores at one point, so it was nice to see for the future.

“I think our guys gave a good effort,” added Szymanski, who unveiled one of what he hopes will be a future star in freshman defender Spencer Moriaty, who made his varsity debut. “They did everything they could. They fought and battled. They never gave up. It’s always disappointing and obviously you never go into a season saying, ‘I hope we win three games.’ But I think the future’s bright.”


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