MANTENO | Illinois Lutheran knew Manteno needed no help offensively in Saturday's Class 1A Manteno Regional boys soccer championship.
So when the Chargers accidentally gave some help, it only kick-started a series of unfortunate events provided by the Panthers.
A loose ball that ricocheted off the foot of Illinois Lutheran goal keeper Jake Volkman's gave Manteno a lead less than four minutes into the game, and the Chargers never recovered in a 3-1, season-ending loss.
"Those things happen," Illinois Lutheran coach Andrew Biesterfeld said of his team's own goal. "It was just a mistake. That's not one you want to look at and say 'Boy, we really screwed ourselves on that one.'"
The 1-0 lead that Manteno (18-5-2) enjoyed at the 36:37 mark was threatened multiple times before halftime, but the Chargers couldn't break through.
Evan Henschel worked through the Panthers defense and had an open look at the Manteno net, but his shot missed just right of the goal with 22 minutes remaining.
Justin Clayton, who led Illinois Lutheran (15-9) to a come-from-behind win over Beecher in the regional semifinal, missed out on another opportunity less than five minutes before the break. In a 1-on-1 opportunity against Manteno goal keeper Austin Miller, Clayton's shot also missed to the right, and the Chargers failed to gain similar chances before halftime.
"I did not put one away when I had the chance," Clayton said. "Manteno let me break free, but I just didn't put the right touch on one that could've made the game a lot closer."
The Panthers padded their lead nearly seven minutes into the second half when Jimmy Sotiropoulos fired a goal that just missed a deflection off of the right goal post before landing in the left corner.
Manteno led 3-0 before Henschel gained some redemption on a goal off of a rebound with 5:36 left in the match.
Manteno out-shot Illinois Lutheran 17-6, and just four of the Charger's shots, including the goal, came within scoring range.
"Missed opportunities hurt us. We didn't get many, but we didn't take advantage of the ones we did get," Biesterfeld added. "I thought we came out ready to play, but Manteno is a good team, and they were able to take away a lot of the things that we were trying to do.
"Nonetheless, it was still a great season for our guys, and it's definitely one I didn't want to see end at the end of this day."