All season long, Lyons boys soccer coach Alex Hernandez has been preaching to his team to take it one game at a time.
"If you look back at history, there are teams that look ahead and they get burnt for doing that," Hernandez said. "We haven't looked past anyone so far, and we won't the rest of the way either."
The Lions moved one step closer toward capturing their first Class AA State title with a 5-2 victory over Juarez Friday afternoon in the De La Salle Regional championship.
The win earned Lyons a berth in last night's sectional semifinals against York (after deadline). The winner advanced to face either Morton or Oak Park and River Forest in the sectional final Thursday night at Lyons.
"The score may indicate that we had an easy time against Juarez, but that wasn't the case," Hernandez said. "The inferior playing conditions of De La Salle's field allowed Juarez to hang around, and they are a dangerous team when you let them do that.
"I watched them come back from a 2-0 deficit to Riverside-Brookfield. I told our kids at the half when we were up 2-1 that the game was far from over. We weren't out of the forest at that point, but we came out and put three away to take control of the game."
As the case has been most of the season, Mark Zeman and Tim Markham paced LT again with two goals apiece against Juarez. Steve Oetking also tallied to help the Lions improve their overall record to 19-1-3.
"Last year, people didn't expect a lot from us when the State tournament started," said Hernandez, whose team pulled off the biggest upset of the 2004 playoffs when it beat Waubonsie Valley in the regional opener. "But this year, we're not going to surprise anyone."
Hernandez does admit with a smile that it's nice to be out of the "group of death."
"We're in a different sectional this year, so we're not stuck with the Waubonsie Valleys, Neuqua Valleys and Naperville teams," Hernandez said. "They can beat each other up this year, and we'll see them later on."
Quietly, Tim Havlat and Pat Magnesen have been coming up big for the Lions of late.
"Tim has been a quiet leader for us in the back," said Hernandez, referring to his team's senior defender. "He's composed, fast and good in the air. Tim's decision making has been outstanding, too."
As for Magnesen, Hernandez refers to the senior midfield as the "Energizer Bunny."
"He is all over the place all the time," Hernandez said. "As the year has progressed, Pat has really matured as a player. He's playing with more composure, and that's been a big key for us."
Beside for a second-half breakdown to Wheaton-Warrenville South, the Lions have been almost perfect this fall. But Lyons realizes this dream run can come to an end at any second.
"I really didn't have any idea of who we were playing in our sectional until after Friday's game against Juarez," Hernandez said. "I know people don't believe me, but I'm not looking past anyone. The kids have bought into that way of thinking, too, and it has paid off for us all year."