One of the biggest Illinois Central Eight conference rivalries met on Thursday, October 3, at Herscher High School, and the matchup did not disappoint in the slightest. Herscher faced off against Manteno for a possible conference title deciding game.
The two sides came into the game knowing the significance of the matchup. Head Coach Alan High said, “We looked at the game as a great challenge and also a possible precursor for a matchup further into the post season as we move forward.” The players anticipated a close game all the way through, but what lied ahead exceeded expectations.
For the first ten minutes of the game, the Tigers controlled possession and were looking ready for the next 70 more minutes. Junior Jace Martin drew a foul inside the box within those first crucial ten minutes, earning the Tigers a penalty kick. As he has all season, the young striker stepped up to the line and sent the keeper the wrong way, putting the Tigers up 1-0.
Then momentum shifted. The Panthers of Manteno began to settle into the game and began holding the ball just as much, if not more, than the Tigers for a lengthy piece of the half. The Tigers’ defense and goalkeeper held strong for a while, but eventually they snuck a ball in. On a questionable non-offsides call, a Panther snuck in behind the Tiger back line and finished a tap in on the back post.
The first half ended at 1-1, and the Tigers knew they had to stay composed in the second half if they wanted to keep it close. Throughout the second half, the Tigers were given three separate yellow cards that had the game on edge. The two teams stayed deadlocked at one a piece until the buzzer rang and ended regulation.
Due to the new conference rules, no more overtime was necessary as the two squads headed straight to penalty kicks. Manteno shot first, giving the Tigers the mental advantage of being able to see what the Panthers do and knowing what to match. Both teams’ first two players finished their shots, making it 2-2. Then senior keeper Jack Holohan saved Manteno’s third shot. The next Tiger kept their streak going making it 3-2, and Manteno followed tying it up. Herscher’s fourth kept them perfect, and Manteno followed suit.
The Tiger’s fifth had to make it to win, but it was saved by the Panther keeper. Each team sent out five more shooters for sudden death. Manteno converted, Herscher matched. The next Panther up skied the ball over the bar leaving Herscher a second chance to walk off with a win. Senior Milford Nelson made his way to the stripe and took his shot. The Manteno keeper dove the wrong way, and Nelson walked off the field with a game winning PK under his belt. He said, “I was terrified, knowing that if I miss there’s a chance of us losing. It felt good to be able to step up and make it though.”