Charlie Davenport was Hersey's hero as the Huskies marched into Buffalo Grove on Friday and emerged with a 2-1 victory to pull even with the Bison in the Mid-Suburban East standings with one week to go in the regular season.
A loss would have effectively eliminated the Huskies from divisional contention, but instead, they've got every reason to think they can end up representing the East in the MSL Cup.
Davenport's PK conversion in the 78th minute stunned a big BG homecoming crowd. The Bison's fans were hoping a victory would send them into the MSL Cup for the first time since the 2000 season.
"We could do nothing else but win tonight if we hoped to have a chance to win our division, and everyone laid it on the line for 80 minutes," said Davenport. "And now we're alive once again."
Both teams have 18 points. The Huskies play Elk Grove and Conant next week, while the injury-plagued Bison (11-4-0, 6-3-0) host MSL West leader Palatine on Tuesday before finishing up at Hoffman Estates on Thursday.
"We've gotten beaten up in the last week, and Irving (Eloiza) hasn't trained in a week, and we were without our starting outside-mids today," said BG caoch Rick Carlson. "But that's not to take anything away from Hersey, because they played hard and took advantage of our inability to finish, which seems to be the way the story has gone for us lately."
Even with Eloiza, one of the top creative talents in the area, playing less than 100 percent healthy, the hosts opened fast. BG maintained possession frequently and set itself up with many chances on Hersey (9-8-0, 6-3-0).
But Huskies goalkeeper Irving Velasquez made a handful of wonderful saves to help keep his club even with the high-flying Bison. His best two of the first period came after a well-played 'dummy' by Demo Drakoulis allowed extra time and space for Eloiza to tee-up a 25-yard blast, but Velasquez was ready.
Three minutes later, another drive from Eloiza dipped at the last minute but still was saved by the Hersey keeper.
Despite an edge in the run of play, the Bison conceded the first goal of the match when Davenport ran onto a well-played ball up the right side from teammate Chris Nuebling, then unloaded an angled screamer which stayed on the turf to elude Dillon Eaton, who had no chance.
"Scoring that first goal really gave us all a lift, but then we made a mistake on a set piece and they came right back to get even with us," said Davenport.
BG's Daniel Ramirez, who was a thorn in the side of the Huskies throughout with his deadly long throws, tossed one to the spot. The Huskies allowed it to fall untouched , and that helped an alert Rafa Arcos to slot past Velasquez to tie things three minutes before the break.
"You make defensive mistakes like that in this league, and you pay for it right away," said Hersey coach Darren Llewellyn.
The pace was relentess in the early part of the second half as the Bison knew another goal could be a death blow for a Hersey side which has had its own troubles finding the net of late.
Buffalo Grove nearly went ahead when Eloiza put Nick Kaczkowski through the right side, and after the senior got to the end line, his superb cross flashed through the box -- but didn't find a teammate.
Zach Masciopinto, Alberto Eloyza, Irving Balboa and Demo Drakoulis all found their way clear to have a go on frame after the Kaczkowski cross -- but on this night, it just didn't happen for the Bison.
The Buffalo Grove bench howled in disbelief when the center official sent Davenport to the spot after he was fouled inside the box. Two minutes later, Hersey's supporters were cheering a hard-fought win.
"This is a hard team to figure, especially after playing so poorly last night in our loss at home to Fremd," said Llewellyn of the Huskies' 2-0 loss Thursday. "Bbut they really came out tonight to play, knowing it was now or never."