ST. JOHN | Josh Crague has played Lake Central soccer "since he walked in here as a freshman."
He's been to two Final Fours, won a state championship in 2010 and was staring at three goals called back Wednesday against Griffith.
Undaunted, the senior forward took a perfect corner kick from Ulises Hernandez, split defenders and scored the only goal that counted in a 1-0 win over Griffith in Wednesday night's Class 2A Lake Central Sectional semifinal.
The Times No. 7 Indians will play Highland, a 9-1 winner over Gavit in the first semifinal, at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lake Central for the championship.
"Josh has been counted on from the minute he got here and you could see in his eyes today that he wasn't going to let us walk out of here losers," L.C. coach Jereme Rainwater said. "When you have a leader like that it just means a ton."
Two of Lake Central's first three goals were called off because a non-scoring player was determined to be offside. The third goal, a perfectly executed bicycle kick, was too dangerous because the kick was too high, Rainwater said he was told.
"We knew we had it in us, we've been doing a lot better and our younger kids had been doing so much better," Crague said. "We knew we had to keep going at it and one of them would count."
Despite spending most of the game in their own attack zone, the Indians were kept at bay by a Griffith defense that didn't allow quality shots on goal most of the first half and protected goalie Matthew Potacki.
Lake Central didn't pass the Panthers shots taken until the second half, when they eventually out-shot Griffith 9-5.
"Our defense has been outstanding all year," Griffith coach Ron Knestrict said. "We figured it would be a one-goal game, this is our seventh one-goal game this year and we've been on both sides of them. We hoped to be on the other side tonight."
In the first game, Oakley O'Day recorded a hat trick for the Trojans in the first 18-plus minutes before sitting most of the rest of the game. He scored his first goal in the first 2:21 and his last at the 21:44 mark.
Highland out-shot Gavit 21-5, and with a 6-0 lead at halftime didn't take a shot in the second half until the last four minutes of the game, when the Trojans scored three late goals. Gladiators goalie Juan Munoz made 12 stops.
Kyle Landers scored Gavit's lone goal on an assist from Alex Avalos at 15:30 in the second half.