MUNSTER | If you follow E.C. Central soccer or a team has played against them, individuals are most likely to say the following phrase: "Watch out for the kid with the long hair."
The player with the long-flowing brown locks that people are referring to is Cardinals sophomore Francisco Torres.
He made sure everyone was watching Wednesday night as he scored both of E.C. Central's goals in regulation to help the Cardinals force overtime in their 3-2 win over Clark in the first semifinal of the Munster Sectional.
"He's a big-game player," E.C. Central coach Costulo Perez said. "When we were in a bind, he lifted us."
After a handball was called on the Pioneers in the goalkeeper's box, junior Erick Cuevas* connected on the ensuing penalty kick for the go-ahead goal in overtime.
Clark almost tied it with 1:59 in the second overtime, but the goal was negated because of a controversial offside call.
"I knew this game could go either way, but unfortunately some bad calls cost us the game," Clark coach Stefen Hutchins said. "I never like to pin it on the refs, but in this case I really think they did."
E.C. Central (12-2-1) had two chances to score in the 23rd minute after Torres had a shot stopped, he had another opportunity on the rebound, but Alex Cruz gathered the loose ball just in time.
In the 36th minute, Clark (7-8-1) tallied its first goal when senior Arnulfo Villar headed in a shot off the crossbar from the foot of sophomore Salomon Moreno.
Torres would be heard from again, though, as he tied the game in the 49th minute after putting in a rebound past Cruz after he made a diving save on the previous Cardinal attempt.
After Jorge Garcia put the Pioneers up 2-1 on a diving slide goal with 2:54 left in regulation, Torres put in a free kick with 1:27 left to send the game into overtime.
In the second semifinal, Munster escaped with 3-2 win over Hammond, as the teams exchanged goals within 32 seconds of each other in the first half.
After 38 minutes of scoreless soccer after that, junior Max Lawson scored the go-ahead goal on a rebound from a save by Hammond keeper Marco Zendejas.
Junior Nik Kajmakoski added a header with 10 minutes left for the insurance goal for Munster (9-7-1).
Hammond (10-1) didn't go out without a fight, scoring 22 seconds later courtesy of senior Eloy Meraz.
*Corrected from an earlier version of the story. The Times regrets the error.