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Class 3A Boys Soccer: Ralph, L-W East Give Stagg the Boot, Make More Playoff Magic

Lincoln-Way East 1, Stagg 0 (penalty-kick tiebreaker): After 120 minutes of strong defensive soccer, the Griffins went 5-for-5 in penalty kicks to edge the Chargers in the championship match at the Andrew Sectional.

Stagg and Lincoln-Way East met in the Class 3A sectional title soccer match at Andrew High School on Saturday morning. And before the outcome was decided the two teams battled well into the afternoon.

The Griffins (10-10-5) and Chargers (18-3-2) needed four overtimes and penalty kicks to determine a winner. Stagg's Adrian Cup missed over the top of the crossbar in the fourth round of penalty kicks, and all five of East's shooters converted their kicks to give the Griffins the 1-0 victory (5-4 in penalty kicks).

Both teams had a number of chances in regulation and in all four overtime periods, but Stagg goalie Erick Estrada (9 saves) and Lincoln-Way East goalie Rick Torres (11 saves) were superb in the nets.

The Griffins' best chance to score in regulation came in the first half. A crossing pass from John Ulrich found its way into the box, and the ball was headed over the crossbar by Stagg's Grant Gornick.

Stagg's best chance came with about 3:25 left in the fourth and final overtime. Tony Estrada's shot was saved by Torres, and the Griffin defense denied a second-chance opportunity for the Chargers a few seconds later.

The game-winning penalty kick was scored by Grffins' junior defender Jimmy Ralph. Anthony Cetera, John Ulrich, Michael Roth and Logan Murphy also connected on PKs for East.

Stagg's penalty-kick goals came from Casey Morf, Jimmy Connolly, Mike Rusnak and Roberto Torres.

"The game was 120 minutes of everyone playing their butts off," Ralph said. "The four shooters in front of me nailed their penalties. That put a lot of pressure on me, but I live for that pressure."

Despite the loss, Stagg coach Mike Kealy was upbeat and proud of his squad's performance.

"I couldn't be more proud of our team and how they battled and fought back," Kealy said. "Someone has to win sometime, and unfotunately it wasn't us. I give credit to East. They have overcome a lot this season and they may have a shot."

Griffins coach Ryan Decker said his team played with great intensity and emotion.

"It's all a mentality for us at this point," Decker said. "To be 10-10 and sectional champs is quite an achievement. We've found a chemistry and a way to win. We're feeling good going in to next week."

Lincoln-Way East will play Morton at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at in the Benedictine University Supersectional. Morton bested Oak Park-River Forest 4-0.

"This team can win state," Ralph said. "We've shown we can overcome adversity and overcome anything we want to."

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