MUNSTER | The biggest difference between Zarko Coric and a lot of other players is that he has a nose for the ball for the whole 80 minutes.
The junior forward scored the lone goal in a physical, hard-fought game between Northwest Crossroads Conference rivals as Munster prevailed over Highland 1-0 in the second semifinal of the Munster Sectional.
Munster (10-3-3) had two opportunities to score on back-to-back header attempts by Coric, but they were both thwarted by Trojan goalie Mike Anderson.
"Zarko was getting double and triple-teamed, so some others got involved," Munster coach Jim Prasopoulos said. "But we had to move the ball from left to right and the name of the game is finishing because it's never easy against Highland."
Highland (9-6-1) also had its chance to score in the intense first half when junior midfielder Connor Moynihan nearly netted on a header of his own from a Trojan throw-in. But the ball hit off a Munster defender and grazed the crossbar before Mustang junior goalie Ethan Flahaven gathered it in for the save.
Coric finally took a decent shot in the 47th minute when senior midfielder Jordan Cooper sent a sharp pass to Coric, who then one-timed a laser past the outstretched arms of Anderson for his 19th goal of the season.
"It's been closer than ever between these two teams this year and I seriously thought we had a chance, but Zarko rose to the occasion and put one in," Highland coach Mirko Maric said. "At first with a couple injuries, I didn't think we would come together, but we came together as a team quite well in the end."
Munster advances to the championship game against Morton at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
In the first game, junior forward Jawayne Spence scored two goals in the first half for the Governors (6-8), who defeated the Gavit Gladiators 4-1.
Spence scored on a wide open shot after Gavit (0-14) goalie Chris Gomez mishandled the ball trying to pick it up from sixteen yards out in the 14th minute.
Then, he added his second in the 27th minute from an Andres Hernandez cross pass.
"Jawayne was in Jamaica to start the season and came back right after Labor Day, but we've done well since he came back," Morton coach Chris Jagadich said. "It's gonna be a tough game on Saturday."