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Warriors edge Cadets to claim outright SCC title


By Darryl Mellema

With time winding down and no goals yet scored in an incredibly even match with Marmion Academy in West Chicago, Wheaton Academy found a chance to use its team speed on the wings.

Sam Hardy received the ball on the left wing in his defensive half of play as the Warriors looked to counterattack the Cadets with less than three minutes to play on Wednesday.

Hardy looked up and saw Ty Seager moving into space further up the left wing. Hardy played the ball – Seager received it, then dribbled beyond his defender.

Seager never stopped moving toward goal – and when he shot, it was from inside the penalty area and the ball flew into the net at the right post.

Wheaton Academy's sixth-straight victory helped it to claim sole possession of the Suburban Christian Conference for the second straight year.

A victory by the Cadets would have created a three-way tie for the top spot in the league between the two squads and Marian Central Catholic.

The Warriors (17-3-1, 8-0) have recorded three straight shutouts and five in their last six matches and allowed just one goal during that time. This was their 12th shutout of the year.

Marmion (13-7-2, 6-2) saw its seven-match win streak come to an end. The Cadets, who had recorded three straight clean sheets, were blanked for just the third time this season.

“It was down to the wire and (Hardy) saw me wide,” Seager said. “I was making a curling run on the outside. There were two guys back and one between me and the goal. I took a touch and hustled around him and beat him on the outside, took another couple of touches and beat the keeper to the far post.”

Wheaton and Marmion seem to play incredibly competitive matches against each other and Wednesday’s final SCC contest between the two was a great sending-off for a wonderful conference rivalry.

With Marmion heading to the Chicago Catholic League next school year, the conference portion of the rivalry came to an end on Wednesday.

“Playing against Marmion has always been a battle,” Seager said. “They’re one of our biggest rivals, especially with how close the games have always been. I remember here, a couple of years ago, we won on PK’s. There, last year, we won in overtime. It just always come down to the wire.”

Both coaches expressed a desire to continue as a nonconference rivalry, if possible.

The match played as two vastly different halves. Marmion controlled possession throughout the first half and kept the ball in Wheaton’s half of play. Much of that was due to the play of Luke DeSimone, who seemed to always be on the ball, and always seemed to be moving it intelligently when he played it.

“He’s a senior and he really controlled the play for us in the first half,” Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said. “We lost him a bit in the second half.”

The Cadets fashioned some chances, too, with none better than Gavin Sanchez’s free kick that went marginally wide with 18 minutes left in the half after Cam Sweeney was fouled just outside the penalty area.

For much of its possession, however, Marmion found final efforts at goal difficult and Wheaton was dangerous when it switched to attack, such as a Seager free kick that flew barely wide 10 minutes before halftime.

Marmion continued its strong play through the early portions of the second half before the hosts surged. A multi-pass move six minutes into the half led to the Cadets’ Trevor Jones pulling a shot wide.

“It was really a tale of two halves,” Wheaton coach Jeff Brooke said. “Marmion really overwhelmed us with their possession in the first half.”

Then the Warriors began to stretch both the width and the length of the field and started to find gaps. The surge started with 30 minutes left when Reid Culberson took a Hardy pass up the left sideline and shot into the outside of the left side netting.

“In the first half, they were outworking us in the middle and we couldn’t really figure out our marking,” Seager said. “We tried to get it in and then get it out quick. They were pinched in and we had to get it out wide, especially on our wide field. We had to get wide and stretch them and use our speed.”

But Marmion held out through an increasing offensive onslaught, and one of the keys was sophomore keeper Matt Fletcher. His best saves of the match came with 29 minutes left when he pulled off a double save, first from Isaac Anthony and then from Casey Zimmerman.

And even when he wasn’t making key saves, Fletcher was controlling his penalty area, covering for any defensive miscues and keeping crosses from becoming shots on goal.

“He just picked up goalkeeping a few years ago,” Del Toro said. “For him, it’s been a matter of getting him time on the field. Tonight, we needed him and he did not play like a sophomore. He showed how he’s progressed.”

But the Warriors continued to press forward. With 16 minutes left, Seager and Grant Rougas combined before Zimmerman forced Fletcher to make a save.

As time wound down in the match, both teams had chances. Marmion’s Conor Morton won a corner kick that Wheaton cleared. Shortly after, the Warriors had a corner kick that was punched away by Fletcher.

But then Seager struck and there wasn’t enough time for the Cadets to mount a sustained comeback.

Both teams have concluded their regular season schedules. Wheaton faces either St. Francis or IMSA at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the opening round of the Class 2A Glenbard South Regional.

“We’ve made a good run in the Pepsi (Showdown), which is encouraging,” Seager said. “Now we’ve just really got to keep up our momentum. We need to have individuals step up. If we have individuals step up and have team chemistry, I think we’ll do really well.”

Marmion, meanwhile, faces Metea Valley on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the Class 3A Glenbard West Regional.


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