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updated: 10/20/2012 6:48 PM

Rodriguez goal lifts Larkin past Schaumburg

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By Steve Nichols

Somebody must have told Larkin's Erik Rodriguez to do the jingle.

Because like a good leader when his teammates needed him, the senior was there.

In a hotly-contested 1-1 tie with the season on the line and Schaumburg dictating the second half Larkin, missing two key players to earlier injuries, watched Rodriguez take control in crunchtime when he booted in the game-winning penalty kick with 8 minutes remaining for Larkin's 2-1 Class 3A Schaumburg regional championship win over No. 12 seed Schaumburg at Gary Scholz Stadium on Saturday.

Rodriguez, an area-leader with 24 goals, helped guide the No. 3 seed Royals (14-5-4) to their first regional plaque since 2010 and to the York sectional semifinal on Tuesday to play bitter rival, No. 10 seed South Elgin, at 6:30 p.m.

The Saxons finish up at 7-8-3 and won't get to defend their sectional title thanks to Rodriguez, who was tripped up by two Saxon defenders after gaining some steam and breaking his way up the right side of the field toward the net in the 72nd minute.

"I just got a great ball from Diego (Ramirez); luckily the guy kicked me and I fell down," Rodriguez said. "There was a little confusion at the beginning, whether it was a PK or an outside kick. (The officials) called a PK and I thought to myself this is my team, I should step up, I'm one of the seniors, I'm the leader, I have to step up."

Doom almost settled in for Larkin when Schaumburg evened things up at 1-1 on Kacper Wasilewski's goal from Logan Walther in the 58th minute.

A minute later, Larkin senior midfielder Tony Hernandez was forced out of the game due to a knee injury that Royals coach Ken Hall said could keep Hernandez out of action indefinitely. Larkin also lost Junior Esclante to what appears to be a broken leg, according to Hall and Schaumburg trainers after he collided with a Saxon trying to kick at the same time in the first half.

Larkin was reeling at that point. The Saxons were gaining steam and had multiple shots on net, especially in the final 2 minutes. But goalie Aldair Dominguez (6 saves) made a couple of lunging saves to preserve the win.

"I give them credit, they won the game. The two opportunities they had, they scored," Saxons coach Hamid Mehreioskouei said. "You can dominate your opponent all game and still lose. And at the end of the day you have to finish up your opportunities and we had plenty of opportunities. They defended well, they hankered in and they took it, and they got a penalty shot to win the game."

Michael Gomez scored Larkin's first goal on a header in the first half.

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