Third-seeded Crystal Lake South simply refused to lose.
Trailing 2-0 to second-seeded Cary-Grove with less than 10 minutes left in the match, the Gators got 2 goals from freshman Andrew Grabowski in regulation and the game-winner from senior captain Gary Sexson in the first overtime as they stunned the Trojans 3-2 in 2 overtimes in a semifinal game of the Class 3A Crystal Lake South boys soccer regional Wednesday night.
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The Gators will play top-seeded McHenry for the regional championship Saturday at 3 p.m.
Even though South was thoroughly outplayed for nearly 70 minutes, coach Brian Allen attempted to keep his players positive.
"I tried to keep the guys up, but it was hard because Cary-Grove was dominating us," said Allen. "They had us on our heels. Andrew Grabowski didn't hesitate. He just let those shots rip. He was on the JV at the beginning of the season and that is my fault. He was a hero tonight and Gary is a great leader and a very unselfish player."
Outshooting the Gators 7-3 in the first half, the Trojans broke a scoreless tie when Joey Klawitter broke away from the South defense at midfield unscathed and blasted a shot past South goalie Gus Alvarez with 5:39 left before intermission.
Leading 1-0 at halftime, the Trojans (11-8) scored with 8:59 elapsed in the second half on a goal by Kevin Wilde to make the score 2-0.
Cary-Grove held the 2-goal advantage until Grabowski scored his first goal of the game off a rebound from Orlanda Tapia with 9:23 left.
'These are definitely the biggest goals of my career," said Grabowski, "I was just in the right place at the right time on both goals. Coach Allen kept telling us not to give up and stay positive. "
Grabowski sent the game into overtime with an unassisted goal with 5:33 remaining.
With 6 minutes left in the first overtime, Sexson emerged out of pile and blasted a shot from 25 yards out past Cary-Grove junior goalie Ethan Csoka in what turned out to be the match-winner.
"What a great win," said Sexson. "I just turned around when I got the ball and got a good shot on goal. Coach Allen kept keeping us positive."
For the Trojans, it was a heartbreaking loss.
"They capitalized on our mistakes and we couldn't clear the ball," said coach Mark Olson. "We had a great effort. This loss is on me."