CALUMET CITY | The patience exhibited by the Thornton Fractional boys soccer team eventually backfired Tuesday afternoon.
Shepard scored two goals in a 13-minute span in the second half, then held on for a 2-1 South Suburban crossover victory at T.F. North High School.
The loss dropped Thornton Fractional's record to 3-3 in conference and 4-5-1 overall, while Shepard improved to 3-2, 6-4-4. Thornton Fractional's team has more juniors than seniors this season and five players who are either freshman or sophomores.
"I think we have won the games we have expected to win," Thornton Fractional head coach Alejandro Lagunas said. "We are not playing bad. I was just telling (assistant coach Amanda Brockman) it is scary to think how well we could play if we all got on the same page."
When Shepard's Tommy Eyer fired a goal between two Thornton Fractional defenders in the 64th minute of the match to give the Astros a 2-0 lead, it seemed to light a fire under the host team. Thornton Fractional took seven of its 10 second-half shot attempts in those final 16 minutes of the match, pulling within a score when T.F. South sophomore Ray Kobus converted a penalty kick with less than five minutes remaining.
"(The late surge) was us just finally picking up intensity," Lagunas said. "It is unfortunate that it has to get to that for us to pick it up."
Thornton Fractional had a scoring chance five minutes into the match when Julio Lira fed the ball to Jeremy Celmer, who had a clear look at the goal, but his shot attempt went high.
The Astros then pressed relentlessly early in the scoreless second half and broke a scoreless tie when Eyer's line drive corner kick feed was redirected near post by teammate Roldolfo Macedo. The play happened immediately after an injury timeout and caught Thornton Fractional's defense off guard.
"We are making mistakes that we shouldn't make, and we know that," Lagunas said. "That first corner kick, we know we shouldn't be facing our own goal on a corner kick."
Eyer, who is also the kicker on Shepard's football team, showed the strength of his leg with a midfield blast in the opening minutes of the second half that required a stop by Thornton Fractional keeper Dominic Sulli.
"The forwards made some excellent runs for us in the second half, which opened up the midfield for us," Shepard coach Dustin DeFrates said. "That corner kick was beautiful, just the way we drew it up."