It didn't take long for Naperville Central's Pat Flynn to score during Friday night's Class 3A semifinal against Stevenson at Lincoln-Way North in Frankfort.
Apparently things don't change even when the stakes are at their highest.
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Flynn netted his 30th goal of the season in the 11th minute and the Redhawks added two more goals in the first half to shut out the Patriots 3-0.
Naperville Central advances to the state championship game for a second straight season. It will meet Warren at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We talked about how Stevenson reminded us a lot about how we were playing last year," Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. "They played very hard, good defense, and if you can get an early goal against a defensive team, that makes them change some of what they want to do."
Flynn's goal came with 30:23 on the clock as it caromed off the crossbar before sneaking into the back of the net.
"We knew we had to find a way to jump on them early," Flynn said. "The ball got flicked out my way and there was a lot of traffic, so I knew the goalie would have a hard time seeing it. It's one of those goals you hope for but don't know if you're going to get."
Naperville Central (23-1) carried the momentum into its second goal. Jack Patrick received a pass from Sam Reskala and then blasted a 35-yard shot through another throng of players in the 24th minute.
"We weren't just bad, but I think we were also a little unlucky," Stevenson coach Mark Schartner said. "Obviously, one was redirected and you saw someone hit it in, but give them an amazing amount of credit for their effort, heart and desire."
Flynn once again was involved in the final scoring play of the evening when he flicked a pass behind him to a sprinting David Murphy.
"Got a great ball down the line and Murphy made a great run," Flynn said. "The defenders came toward me to play the ball so I sent it back to him and he made a great touch and buried it. It was just great movement off the ball by Murphy and a great team play."
Stevenson (18-5-1), which entered the match having allowed only 12 goals all season, had suddenly surrendered three in less than 28 minutes.
"Jumping on them early like that was key," Naperville Central goalkeeper Mike Pavliga said. "Having a three-goal lead makes my job a whole lot easier."
The Patriots had considerably more scoring chances in the second half than they did in the first but never were able to make the match very interesting with a rally Joseph Hugener and Jacob Krause had good scoring chances late in the second half but came away empty-handed.
"We felt like we were still in it," Schartner said. "But they're a good team, and that's the best team we've seen all year, there's no doubt."
The Patriots will look to regroup in the third-place game against Sandburg at 5 p.m. Saturday.