Boys soccer: Crystal Lake South ousts Grayslake North in double overtime

Pierce Johnson went back to his roots in order to help Crystal Lake South advance in the playoffs on Tuesday.

Johnson used to be an attack-oriented player before the Gators moved him back to be a defender because of his vision of the pitch. But Johnson always enjoyed an opportunity to score and made the most of his two chances in the Gators' Class 2A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal against Grayslake North.

Johnson scored twice to lead South to a 2-1 win.

"We just kept pushing," Johnson said. 'We stayed as a team, and we ended up getting the result we needed."

South (18-4-1) and Grayslake North entered the second overtime period after struggling to create many chances in the first. The Gators earned a corner kick with three minutes left, and South sent the ball when Nick Prus shot it at the net.

That's when Johnson decided to stick his foot out at the ball to redirect it, leading to the match-winning goal with 3:34 left in the second overtime period.

"When I see my opportunity, I want to take them and give my best," Johnson said.

He had the same mentality when he broke a scoreless tie in the first half. Johnson was at the net at the right moment during a corner kick and buried the ball to give the Gators a 1-0 lead with 14:17 left in the first half.

South coach Brian Allen was proud to see Johnson make the most of his opportunities.

"You always have to anticipate that something might bounce your way and be ready for it," Allen said. "That's a big credit to Pierce, where I think today a couple guys let the ball bounce because they weren't ready for it, and he made the most of those moments."

Allen was also proud to see the way his team battled throughout the match even though the Gators struggled to create as many looks as they'd normally like. South just found a way to win and advance.

"I'm really proud of the guys, because maybe we weren't at our best in a lot of different ways, but we continued to work and grind it out," Allen said. "Sometimes in the playoffs, you need to win ugly."

Grayslake North (12-9) battled back in the second half when Danny Fabela scored with 21:09 left in regulation. But the Knights couldn't build more momentum off some solid chances.

"'I'm proud," Grayslake North coach Adam DeCaluwe said. "I hate losing more than anything, but I think we should be proud of the energy, effort and the mentality we took to the field."

South will try to win its first sectional title since 2019 when it plays Harvard on Friday. The Gators will aim to ride their momentum as they try to keep their push alive.

"It's just another team, another game we need to play," Johnson said. "We're going to be ready."

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