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Devils’ soccer team displays heart of a champion



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Updated: December 6, 2012 6:16AM

It was the game everybody expected. It gave thrills and heartbreak in equal measure.

Every time Naperville Central appeared unlucky, it found a way to catch a break. For a few delirious seconds, the Redhawks’ magical run appeared safe when senior Jack Patrick scored a stunning goal with just 14.2 seconds to play that gave them hope their time was now.

It did not last.

For the second straight year, the Redhawks suffered a stunning and disconsolate loss in overtime as Warren’s Nick Wegrzynowicz scored in the 81st minute that powered the Red Devils to the dramatic 2-1 victory for the Class 3A state soccer title Saturday night at Lincoln-Way North in Frankfort.

Warren’s win was the first state title ever in the sport by a Lake County team.

Warren star midfielder Daniel Szczepanek created the 2-on-1 opportunity with Wegrzynowicz. Szczepanek recorded his 24th assist of the season on the game-winner.

“He’s Polish and I’m Polish, and we speak Polish on the field all the time,” Szczepanek said.

Szczepanek screamed to his teammate and Wegrzynowicz knew what to do. “It means ‘Go,’ and that’s what he did,” Szczepanek said. “He made a great play and scored a great goal.”

Patrick’s miracle score developed from a rare Szczepanek mental mistake. He misplayed a ball he was trying to clear that gave Patrick room to fire away a shot. The Redhawks (23-2) appeared to have all the momentum.

“We didn’t come all this way to lose in that fashion,” Szczepanek said. “After regulation, we talked and we said, ‘We have business to finish.’

“When we scored that goal, we decided we weren’t going to make that same mistake and we just defended for our lives.”

Naperville Central and Warren (21-5-3) started the year ranked Nos. 1 and No. 2. Naperville Central dominated the year, winning 23 out of 24 matches entering the state final game. Warren astonishingly finished third in its own conference, and went just 2-2-2 in the final six games of the regular season.

The Blue Devils got hot when it mattered. “It was a different mindset once the state playoffs started,” Wegrzynowicz said. “For us seniors, we knew it was do or it. We had some bad games during the regular season and we lost some games to teams we should have beat.

“Fortunately for us, we just got past it.”

In the 26th minute, Warren advanced the ball and senior defender Timmy Pieper hit a through ball that senior midfielder Tony Severini eased in for a 1-0 Warren lead.

“It was a nice ball, a perfect pass and I just got my foot on it,” Severini said. “After they scored, we just had to regroup. We knew that it was our last year. We weren’t going to let one goal change our mood and give them momentum.”

Naperville Central’s players were naturally devastated after the loss. Coach Troy Adams, his voice cracking, paid tribute to their fight and resolve. “I wouldn’t trade a state championship trophy to not be around them,” he said. “I’ll take second place if it means I get kids like that.”

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