DeKALB -- The winds of fate were unkind to Huntley's boys soccer team Saturday afternoon.
It didn't take long for DeKalb coach Brent McIntosh to determine which direction his team would head after winning the opening coin toss prior to the Class 3A regional championship clash.
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"When we won the toss, our plan was to definitely take the wind," said McIntosh. "We felt like that might have been a little bit of a 12th man advantage for us. I felt like we wanted to make a statement in the opening half that it was going to be an 80-minute battle."
When DeKalb's Stephen Darko stole the ball from a defender and sent a right-footed blast into the net with 19:27 remaining in the opening half, the Red Raiders (21-3-1) knew they were in for a long grind.
Darko, a transfer from East Aurora, came off the bench to provide what turned out to be the game's only goal during the third-seeded Barbs' 1-0 victory over top-seeded Huntley in DeKalb.
"Stephen gave their back line some problems earlier in the season so my plan was to get him involved right away," said McIntosh. "It was a powerful play. He's a powerful kid with a lot of speed and strength and he exploited that."
Despite trailing 1-0 at halftime, Red Raiders coach Kris Grabner thought his team was in pretty good position considering the elements.
"I felt that if we got out of the first half down one it was in our favor," said Grabner. "I didn't want to go down a goal but nobody was panicked."
Considering the fact that the Red Raiders had pocketed a pair of 3-1 wins over DeKalb (19-2) in their 2 previous meetings -- including last year's regional finals -- nobody could blame Grabner for his confident feeling.
"We did feel confident," said midfielder Niko Mihalopoulos, who entered the game as Huntley's leading scorer with 27 goals. "We weren't worried."
With the wind behind them in the second half, the Red Raiders outshot the Barbs 10-0 but only required DeKalb goalkeeper Owen Sawyer to turn 2 of them aside.
Huntley's best second-half scoring opportunity came when Mihalopoulos sent a 25-yard rocket off the crossbar with 15 minutes remaining.
"It did feel like a goal was coming and we felt some luck in our favor," said Mihalopoulos. "But in the end, we were just unlucky. We played our hearts out but we just didn't come out with the result we wanted."
"Going against the wind in the second half, we talked about how defending was going to be paramount," said McIntosh, who guided the Barbs to their first regional title since 2009. "A criticism of ours is that our defending hasn't always been on point this year. It has been a point of emphasis the last three weeks. I thought it came to form tonight winning the 50-50 balls in our box."
With the win, DeKalb moves on to face McHenry in Wednesday's Huntley sectional semifinals.
"I think the world of Huntley -- their coach and their team led by an amazing group of seniors," added McIntosh. "We kind of mirror that."
The loss was especially tough on Huntley's 13 seniors.
"I think the legacy we have left is we're the best team that has ever played for this school," said Mihalopoulos. "I think the school will remember us highly."
"It's upsetting because I have some players that I'm very grown to and it's hard to see them go," said Grabner.