Dino Kandalepas' 83rd-minute header downed a young team from Hoffman Estates on Tuesday night as visiting Conant denied their hosts their first Mid-Suburban League points of the boys soccer season with a 2-1 double overtime decision.
The Cougars (3-2-2, 1-0-0) appeared to be on course for 3 points in regulation when Chase Hermanson fired them in front with a superb strike in the 46th minute. But after Conant missed a couple subsequent quality chances, sophomore Mark Hauser drew Hoffman Estates even with a close-range equalizer five minutes from time.
That rekindled the hopes of coach Matt Sriver and fans of Hoffman Estates (0-3-0, 0-1-0).
"Obvioulsy I am very proud of the effort we gave tonight, but for the second game in a row, we haven't finished our opportunities to let another one get away from us," said Sriver.
It's a young Hawks team. Sriver's lineup at one point featured two freshmen and five sophomores.
"But (Matt's) club is impressive," said Conant coach Jason Franco. "Their forwards are dangerous and had the ability to unlock us in the back, especially in that first half. And they also have a very good young keeper (Christian Peralta) who ate up everything in the box while making some very good saves against us."
The sophomore keeper wasn't called into action until the half-hour. But his teammates at midfield, including sophomores Ricky Choi and Konrad Kieruzal and junior Misael Vargas, created a steady supply of chances as they dominated possession with some lively touches to help keep pressure on the Cougars.
"We had a real tight game with them last year, and they always play us tough, but I thought we came playing kind of sloppy, maybe thinking we would just come out and beat them," said Hermanson. "They are a very good team, and we got ourselves a real wake-up call in that first half."
Peraltas' goalkeeping counterpart, Patryk Openchowski, was plenty busy in the first period, turning away Vargas twice, with the second the tougher of the two.
Peralta turned away Hermanson at 27 minutes, then once again when Victor Moskal send him in with a nifty flick. Hoffman defender Adam Schultz tracked back at high speed to tackle Hermanson and deny the second chance, which came just moments before the first period was whistled over.
"Those first 30 minutes belonged to Hoffman," said Franco.
Hermanson, a junior, finished at the back post what Joe Connolly had begun with a long throw and Moskal extended when his redirected header bounded off the bar.
"Maybe a little luck on my goal, but I was in the right place at the right time, and that's all that matters," Hermanson said.
The go-ahead goal took a little steam out of the Hawks' attack. Up until Hauser drew the Hawks even, the hosts struggled to find their pace.
"We didn't hang our heads, but we panicked a little and instead of just knocking the ball around and finding feet, like we did in the first half, we gave the ball up easily, and found ourselves defending more instead of going forward," said Sriver.
Sophomore Rermzi Ahmeti, who had a solid night up top for the Hawks, helped open up the Cougars' back line before finding Kieruzal, who had his shot saved by Openchowski at the near post in the 59th minute. Later, Ahmeti's hard work allowed Hauser to draw the Hawks even when his initial shot was stopped by Openchowski but yielded a rebound, which spilled nicely to an opportunistic Hauser.
Once into the first 10-minute extra session, it was all Conant. The Cougars created a trio of deep throws and corners, the last leading to the game-winner by Kandalepas, who thumped a header past Peralta after a terrific serve from Branden Dos Santos.
"Our energy level was far better in the second half, and our midfield, with Chase and Dino, really stepped up our play," Franco said. "But we told the guys we have to be at the level for 80 minutes against Palatine, or we're going to be in trouble."
Wheeling 1, Schaumburg 0: The host Wildcats remained unbeaten at 7-0-1 by stopping the visiting Saxons.
Luis Herrera scored with an assist from Marino Lopez, and Javier Ocampo and Gary Mendoza both made 3 saves to share in the shutout.
Barrington 2, Prospect 1: The visiting Broncos scored once in each period to claim an MSL victory. Jonathan Wilson and Sean Kim had the goals for Barrington.
Fremd 2, Rolling Meadows 1: Junior Zach Schoffstall and senior Nathan Dolen had goals to help the visiting Vikings past the Mustangs. Junior forward Dave Zarate found the net for Rolling Meadows.
Buffalo Grove 0, Palatine 0: Neither team was able to score through two overtimes at Palatine in a matchup of the defending MSL divisional champs.