Since 1990, both Benet and St. Viator have dominated the East Suburban Catholic Conference in boys soccer, winning or sharing all but two of the league titles since then.
It was more of the same this season after the two clubs defeated all their previous foes to set up a dramatic winner-take-all matchup Friday afternoon in Lisle.
Inspired by two spectacular second-half strikes from senior Brad Bozych and a hard-working bunch in the midfield, the Redwings defeat their rival 3-0.
"It was like playoff soccer out there for us today, and when we play like we did, there isn't anybody out there we can't compete with," said Bozych, who broke things open when he found the back of the net from nearly impossible angles to all but ensure victory.
"I thought (St. Viator) owned the run of play in the first 10-15 minutes, and No. 4 (Spencer Moore) was giving us a lot of trouble up top," said Benet coach Sean Wesley. "But (Paddy) Lawler's goal really helped settle us down, and after that we defended their top player so much better with Quinn Anderson really stepping up. And our midfield led by Sam Knapke gave us some a real high work rate, and that was the difference today."
St. Viator took full advantage of its Moore's abilities by targeting the junior constantly up the right side. He pressured Benet in its own end with plenty of enterprising runs and carries into the area in the first quarter-hour.
"(Moore) dominated the action for most of the first half, and we created some chances because of his work," said St. Viator coach Mike Taylor. "But you've got to finish those chances, and when we didn't. I thought a missed call led to their first goal, but it wasn't the center official who put the ball into the back of the net -- it was our fault. And after a pretty good first half, our play fell off in the second half."
A perfect crossfield serve from Mike Blouin found Lawler in full gallop on the right side, and once the junior squared off his shoulders, he unloaded a wicked low drive past Lions keeper Michael McGrath.
In the closing moments of the first period, Troy Wheeler played a nice ball down the left side off a restart to Moore, whose serve into the 6-yard box was parried away and out of danger by Robert Tomecek. Moore also had a shot go wide and over the bar to end as the half ended.
The first Bozych goal in the 59th minute was brilliant. The Redwings captain brought down a long throw from Jonathan Mojica before rattling the underside of the bar to double the Benet lead.
In the meantime, Lawler, Mojica, Knapke and Co. continued to tackle and win balls. When James Colletti served up a marvelous ball from out of the back, Bozych did the rest at the other end, beating a pair of defenders before delivering a devastating smash from almost the same spot as his goal 12 minutes earlier.
"No. 9 (Bozych) scored a couple of great goals for them today, and for the second straight game, we didn't come to play for 80 minutes," said Taylor. "We've got a couple of days to get Troy a little healthier, and to get ready for the start of the playoffs -- which I feel we'll be ready for next Tuesday.
The Lions (14-3-3, 7-1-0) open up as the No. 1 seed at the Grayslake Central sectional against either Notre Dame or North Chicago at the Vernon Hills regional venue, while Benet (16-3-1, 8-0-0) takes on No. 15 Mt. Carmel when play opens at the Downers Grove South regional on Tuesday.
"This is what high school soccer is all about," said Wesley. "A great crowd, on a terrific weather day, with two great rivals playing for a conference title. I am very proud of the effort from our guys today, and I look forward to them playing with this type of energy and work rate when we meet Mt. Carmel next week."