Both Jim Konrad and Troy Adams have experienced their share of cross-town soccer clashes both as coaches and players in Naperville.
They know to expect tight battles, and they've seen their share of special plays. The overtime game-winning goal by the Huskies' Connor Sharples was pretty special Tuesday night, and it gave Naperville North (11-3, 4-1) a 2-1 victory and kept alive hopes of claiming at least a share of a fifth straight DuPage Valley Conference crown.
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"To be honest I feel for (Mike) Pavliga," Naperville Central coach Adams said after his goalkeeper could only get a slight piece of Sharples' 30-yard rocket that landed in the left corner of the goal with 5:24 left on the clock in the first overtime. "That was an absolute laser. Nobody saves that ball."
Adams had a feeling Tuesday's clash might be decided by a special play, and that is just what the Huskies senior delivered.
"They made the unbelievable play and we didn't," said Adams, whose team suffered its first loss this year and sits at 14-1 overall and 4-1 in the DVC.
Sharples felt he struck the ball well, but he also knew the Redhawks' star keeper made a great effort to get at the ball.
"I was kind of worried the defender was getting close so I just stepped to the ball real hard and I just nailed it," he said. "It was surreal. Mike almost had that, I was nervous. He's a great goalie and he played a great game."
Naperville Central outshot the Huskies 13-4 in the first half, which ended 1-1, and 20-8 for the game. But it was Naperville North that struck first in the game and then struck first when it mattered most, in the sudden-victory extra session.
The Huskies had just one shot on goal in the first half, but Joe Sullivan made it count, taking a feed from Sharples on the left wing and firing back to the right to make it 1-0. Naperville Central's Jay Tegge answered with a rebound goal off a Pat Flynn free kick with 6:54 left in the first half.
After a tight second half the Redhawks pressured early in the overtime with Flynn missing high on a header just prior to Sharples' winning score on the other side of the field.
"Connor is the darkhorse of our team," said Sullivan, a fellow senior. "Nobody really understands him. He's got a lot of talent and as you see, he comes up huge with a strike against our cross-town rivals. It was a great hit. He sneaks up on kids, and that's what's great about Connor."
The Huskies have a tough battle at West Chicago on Wednesday, but wins in their final two DVC games will give them at least a share of the crown. The Redhawks also will play out the league slate with hopes of at least a share of first place.
"We've had a lot of games where we danced with the devil," Adams said, referring to some close calls while opening the year with 14 straight wins. "If you dance with the devil too long eventually it's going to win."