Boys soccer: Morton ends Downers Grove North's season
After falling just short of a state championship in 2019, Morton didn't get a chance to reach its ultimate goal last season due to COVID.
But the Mustangs have that opportunity this fall, and they took the first step with a 4-0 win over Downers Grove North in a Class 3A regional final Saturday.
Top-seeded Morton improved to 18-1-3 on the year while advancing to a sectional semifinal on Tuesday that it will host against fifth-seed Mount Carmel.
"It was a great experience," said senior midfielder Giovanni Alvarez about capturing the regional championship on Morton's home field. "We just have to keep going. Our play was a little raggedy at the beginning, we were playing kickball. We knew that wasn't our game. We had to pick it up from there and in the second half, we were dominant."
Alvarez scored two goals within three minutes of each other in the later stages of the second half. The first came off a pass from Ismael Zepeda while the second was a header off a cross by Max Aquino.
"Downers Grove North is a good team, they gave us a challenge," Aquino said. "I think we've got a good chance to make a run. If we play like this, we can make it far. It's all about determination. It's just great to be on this team and we want to continue the legacy."
Edgar Quintero first put his team on the board with a deflected goal at the 18:14 mark of the first half. Deyair Ruiz doubled that advantage off a brilliant touch pass from Alvarez with 28 minutes left.
"We knew they were a dangerous team," said Morton coach Jim Bageanis, whose team's only loss came to a nationally-ranked Milwaukee school at a tournament in Iowa. "I've seen their scores, they've played everybody tough. They played well defensively; they play hard and they have a good work rate.
"We were trying to play the ball in the air early on. We made a few adjustments in the second half and that seemed to help us."
Goalie Danny Martinez saved a goal in the opening 10 minutes by tipping a shot over the crossbar. The senior, aided by the defense grouping of Eddie Barraza, Juan Ramirez, Ivan Ramirez and Luis Gonzalez, recorded his 12th shutout of the season. Morton has allowed just 14 goals in 22 matches.
"We have good, fast players in the back," Martinez said. "They clean up everything. And if anything does get through, I'm there as the last man. But usually not much comes through. That's why we have all those shutouts.
"We just need to keep playing at the level that we know we can play at. Our coaches are great, they are very specific with what they want and our players are very dedicated. We lost in the state championship game in 2019 and we want this one. We have 12 seniors and we want to end on a great note."
The Trojans (5-15) were coming off their high point of the season, a 2-1 win over Downers Grove South in the regional semifinal. A young group, DGN will return seven starters next fall.
"I thought we defended well as a team," DGN coach Michael Schmitt said. "We just lacked a little bit of energy that we had Tuesday. We came out in the second half a little flat.
"But I thought we had a really good couple of final weeks in terms of training. We had a lot of young players and they embraced the challenges. It was a really strong conference on both sides this year."