Burlington Central boys soccer midfielder Alan Camarena is magic.
For the second-straight game, Camarena gave the Rockets a much-needed heroic lift with another game-winner, this time in a 2-0 Class 2A sectional semifinal win over Freeport hosted by Burlington Central on Rocket Hill Tuesday.
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The win vaults the Rockets (22-2) into the sectional final against Wheaton Academy Friday at 6 p.m. Wheaton Academy, which finished fourth in Class 2A last year, downed Belvidere 7-0 in Tuesday's second semifinal.
Sophomore AJ Gouriotis scored the insurance goal for Central with a little over 2 minutes remaining but it was Camarena who came up big again in the clutch. He scored the game-winner with 55 seconds left against Kaneland in the regional final and when coach Mike Gecan needed someone to step up in the sectional semifinal, Camarena was there again with 10 minutes remaining against the Pretzels.
"He's the magic man," Gecan said. "We struggled with scoring and Alan has the ability to do what no else could do. I mean, isn't that soccer? The part of soccer that's the hardest is just scoring the goal and you look at what happened tonight it took quite a while again to get that goal. He didn't play as many minutes as he normally does and he still got it done."
Camarena didn't wait as long this time, as he one-timed Central the lead when Matt O'Connor won a 50-50 ball in the box that popped around the middle of the field and O'Connor slid it over to a trailing Camarena, who from point-blank range knocked it in.
"I was going to go at it at first," Camarena said, who watched O'Connor battle for the ball. "But I saw him running confident so I left him and he took a big touch and there was no way he could have got it in so I went in and just poked it in."
Freeport (9-14-1) got off just 1 shot as Burlington Central accounted for the other 24. But waiting so long to score is something that will have to change against Wheaton Academy, according to Gecan.
"I could compare it to a lot of sports, but when you're in that moment in a bigger atmosphere, bigger game, you find yourself in that position to score the first goal, one goal could be enough in soccer so the pressure is 10 times more," Gecan said. "Ultimately it comes down to the player and their confidence and their experience and hopefully we've had enough experience to learn that we need to do a little better with putting the ball into the goal."
The Pretzels, a defensive team, watched goalie Marcus Fitzpatrick stop 10 shots. Central goalie Brett Rau didn't see a save opportunity.
"I think Burlington Central deserved that game-winner," Freeport coach Nick Namio said. "Unfortunately, when the ball is your defensive third for most of the game, your percentagely not looking as good the other team. They put a lot of pressure on us so the odds are in their favor."