Third-place games can sometimes be dull, anti-climactic affairs, two teams just going through the motions, disappointed not to be playing two hours later.
Lake Park and Naperville Central turned that notion on its head Saturday night at Hoffman Estates.
"Obviously, this isn't the time that we'd like to be playing, but to be able to play as late as only eight teams are playing in the state, it's true joy," Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said after his Redhawks defeated DuPage Valley Conference rival Lake Park 2-1 for third place in Class 3A.
"We just talked about ending our season on the highest note possible," added Redhawks senior defender Drake Swope, "and making sure we don't have our last high school game end as a loss. We came out and tried to get the early goal, and Jay had a nice one."
Naperville Central (19-3-2), which placed second at state the previous two seasons, scored first, Jay Tegge following a rebound off the Lake Park crossbar in the 17th minute with a no-doubt-about-it blast. Lake Park (21-4-3) answered in the 27th minute when a determined Mike Catalano, the Wisconsin-bound Daily Herald All-Area captain, dribbled into the Naperville Central penalty area and slotted a shot just inside the far post.
Both teams played hard, battling tooth and nail for the deciding goal over the next 50 minutes until Naperville Central's David Murphy was fouled in the Lake Park penalty area and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Tegge converted the penalty kick for the Redhawks, who avenged a DVC loss to league champion Lake Park.
"I just kind of make up my mind either corner," Tegge said. "I kind of had a slow approach to the ball. I saw the goalie jump, so I put it the other way."
"I thought we were pressing toward the end of the game there, so it was nice to get one at the end," Murphy added of the PK decision.
The call left a bitter taste for the Lancers.
"I can't believe how we finished a third-place game," Lancers coach Tony Passi said. "I can't believe how it ends, three minutes (from full time). It's his call, I guess, but it almost seemed like it was a 12v11 game."
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