MAPLE PARK — An emotional match from the start in the Interstate Eight Championship game between Sycamore and Kaneland on Saturday had a finish to match.
Tucker Jahns scored for the second-seeded Knights with 23 seconds left to beat the top-seeded Spartans 1-0.
That the score was 0-0 through 79 minutes and 37 seconds of action is fitting. Both sides were so evenly matched that neither had a sustained period on the ball.
“Great games are great games,” Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. “Win or lose, you just want to be a part of one, you know? This is what you play for. I mean, down to the wire, you gotta coach, and today we were on the victorious side. Tomorrow, maybe they're on the victorious side.”
Early in the first half, yellow cards flew as Sycamore midfielder Joseph Quinn and coach David Bachta both received warnings for dissent, in addition to cards for Kaneland’s Sebastian Rios and Tyler Chapman.
“Sometimes the referees can dictate the speed of play, the tempo of play, what happens,” Bachta said. “And I think sometimes the kids really don't know how to react to it. ... Can we go in hard? Can we not go in hard?”
“Ultimately, we just need to keep our heads in the game,” said Rios, the junior midfielder. “Their speed up top really challenged us up the back. But ultimately, you know, we kept things together. I think that's what we did. We just kept going.”
It was the constant whistles that dragged the game out to a 97-minute ordeal instead of the prescribed 80. But as Sycamore began to play the ball back toward its own net with under a minute remaining, something went wrong.
A miscommunication between the defense and keeper Jaycob Sears left the ball rolling aimlessly towards the net, and as it bounced off the post, Jahns pounced, poking it into the back of the net as Sycamore players collapsed in despair.
“This was the ultimate goal of the year,” Jahns said. “Coming into the last game of the regular season with a loss against Sycamore, we just knew on home field, we can't let that happen again. It’s an emotional game. Senior year, my last game, we've won two conferences now in our whole history of our Kaneland program. … It’s crazy.”
Parillo was less swept up in the frenzy.
“I don't know if it's redemption or just two really good teams going at it,” said the coach. “Any game, it could go either way. You know, that game went their way. This time, it went our way.”
For Kaneland, that is just good enough.