Senior forward Owen Suda and senior outside defender Declan Kracker are among the tallest and the shortest players in the Lyons Township boys soccer team’s starting lineup.
They both share the same mentality – a nose for the goal on restarts, especially for senior Collin Sullivan’s dangerous sidelines throw-ins.
Both scored twice Friday and the Lions enjoyed one of their sweetest victories in recent memory – 4-2 over rival Morton to capture the Class 3A Proviso East Sectional title.
“(Sullivan) had a few games where he was out and it really killed us but we scored three off (throw-ins) today,” Suda said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s like a corner (kick). It’s an absolute weapon.”
The Lions (18-6-2) played Bloom (18-3-1) Tuesday in the Morton Super-Sectional for a state semifinal berth Friday and Saturday at Hoffman Estates High School.
LTHS, which last won sectionals in 2018, is seeking its first state finals berth since the 2009 3A state championship season. Last year, the Lions lost in the sectional semifinals to Hinsdale Central.
Morton (16-6-2) was fourth in the state in 2021. The Lions and Mustangs tied 1-1 Sept. 16 after a late free-kick goal by senior Haris Sarajlija.
On Friday, the Lions overcame a 2-1 halftime deficit after beating Downers Grove North 5-1 in the regional final after trailing 1-0. Sullivan’s throw-ins contributed to three goals in that victory, too.
“Our comebacks. We brought the same energy today and we just kept going, not letting up. Everyone was covering their positions,” Sullivan said. “We just knew that we wanted to make history. I hadn’t gotten this far (with LT) so it’s a great feeling. I’m really excited to keep going.”
Suda gave LTHS a 3-2 lead with 11:53 left by depositing Sullivan’s throw-in flicked along by senior Jimmy Brejcha.
“It was much needed. We have such a good person on the flick,” Suda said. “We never dropped our tempo. We had amazing effort throughout the whole thing. Even when the score said 2-1, we had time.”
However, Morton put a shot off the crossbar and over the goal fewer than 20 seconds later. Then Suda scored the clincher with 10:02 left off a great through pass by junior Mason Burda.
LTHS coach Paul Labbato joked that he nearly took Suda and others out of the game as usual in the second half to get brief rests.
“There were a couple of stoppages along the way and we considered those their breathers,” Labbato said.
Kracker scored directly off Sullivan’s throw-in just 6:07 into play but Morton scored less than two minutes later and 30:28 before halftime.
Kracker tied the game with 22:53 left by finally scoring after Sullivan’s throw-in was slipped by Suda and senior Austen Wisniewski.
“It was a flick and then someone hit the keeper. At that point, it’s just a matter of who wants it the most. I just saw it and put my foot on it,” Kracker said.
“We came out knowing it was going to be a tough game and we just got it done, just put passion in our hearts. We want to go farther than last year and that’s what we did.”
Although not officially credited, the wind may have provided some assists on the throw-ins, especially along one side of the field.
“Sometimes it feels like I’m Superman,” said Sullivan laughing. “I’ll just whip it and surprise myself. It goes a little bit more than in should, but it’s great.”
In the sectional semifinals Oct. 25, the Lions edged Whitney Young 1-0 on Sarajlija’s free kick from the 40-yard line that crept through the crease and in just 26 seconds before halftime.
The Dolphins put on a huge surge in the final 12 minutes, forcing senior goalie Tyler Balon (8 saves) to make a diving save of a 21-yard free kick with about 10 minutes left. Another point-blank shot with under four minutes to go caromed off the crossbar.
“That was complete chaos,” Balon said. “(On the free kick) I just had to cover my side because I had to trust in my (defensive) wall. He perfectly placed that. I made a save and I had to do what I do.”