St. Charles East's storybook season came to an end on Tuesday night as Warren earned its second consecutive trip to state finals weekend, edging the Saints 2-1 in the Class 3A Barrington supersectional.
The Blue Devils will join North Suburban Conference member Stevenson the state semifinals on Friday at Lincoln-Way North. Warren meets Sandburg in the 5 p.m. game, while Stevenson faces Naperville Central at 7 p.m.
The offensive juggernaut that's been on display all season for the Saints was only able to muster a single goal, which came against the stiff wind with 27:18 on the clock in the opening half. Sophomore Taylor Ortiz sent a cross and Eric Dietrich delivered a successful header.
Warren (20-5-3) wasn't able to do much in the first 15-plus minutes of the first half, but the Blue Devils did plenty within 55 seconds as they tied the match and then took the lead for good in the 22nd and 23rd minutes.
St. Charles East (20-3-1)m which has played stellar defensively all season long, failed to clear the ball on both occasions. You can't do that against a very good team and the Blue Devils pounced on both opportunities.
The equalizer came at the 18:53 mark when Nick Wegrzynowicz headed in a cross from Daniel Szczepanek. Then, with 17:58 on the clock, Sean Kirwan pounced on a bouncing ball amongst a swarm of players, sending a hard grounder past Saints keeper Chris Lucatorto.
"I'm not sure what happened in the beginning but when (St. Charles East) scored it sparked us," Warren coach Jason Ahonen said. "It was the first time we've been trailing in the post-season and the boys awoke. They knew if they didn't pick it up our season was done."
Throughout the season, the Saints have been the team that punished opponents who failed to make swift and thorough defensive clears. This time, it was the Blue Devils taking advantage.
The Saints wouldn't go away easily. They didn't get a call with 18:45 left in regulation when TC Hull appeared to be taken down by a Warren defender in the penalty area, but they also had some scoring opportunities that they didn't finish. Sophomore Brian Gielow had a bicycle kick off target midway through the second half and a great chance straight-on but the ball bounded off a defender. Gielow also had the team's final chance. After Warren keeper RJ Hill punched a shot away, Gielow was able to get a good leg from 30 yards away but sent it just wide left with 68 seconds remaining.
"They've gotten up on teams and they haven't necessarily conceded goals in crucial situations," Ahonen said. "We got that first one and the momentum swung, and then the second one and had them on their heels for the first time."