BRIDGEVIEW | Illinois Lutheran's Justin Schmidtke understood the importance of a boys soccer win over Beecher, and he didn't mind the big stage this match happened to be on.
Schmidtke scored the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute to lift the Chargers to a 2-1 victory over their River Valley Conference rival. For two teams that shared the RVC title last season, this game took on added excitement because this season's showdown was at Toyota Park in Bridgeview on Saturday afternoon.
"I saw the open shot so I took it," Schmidtke said of the game winner. "It was fun playing here. It's always tough between us and them, and it was even better on a big field. I thought it was pretty cool."
Beecher (9-5, 3-2) took a 1-0 lead when Garrett Short found the back corner of the net 7:18 into the match. Beecher was able to put plenty of first-half pressure on the Chargers' end of the field, but the Bobcats offense would record the single goal. Illinois Lutheran keeper Ryan Cayton finished with 13 saves for the Chargers (9-2, 4-0).
"We were possessing the ball really well in the first 15 minutes," Short said. "I had the ball in the corner and figured, why not? Adrenaline was a huge factor. You're playing at Toyota Park, so I was running on pure adrenaline. It was a great time."
Twelve minutes after Beecher took the 1-0 lead, Illinois Lutheran tied the game on a goal by Evan Henschel, assisted by Schmidtke and sent the teams to the half tied.
"It was a great ball up to Schmidtke," Henschel said. "He tapped the pass over to me, and I caught the corner of the goal."
The match remained tied until Schmidtke's late, decisive goal. Both teams were forced to deal with a larger field than either team is accustomed to, and Illinois Lutheran coach Andy Biesterfeld felt the Chargers would be up to the challenge if they substituted often.
"It's a big field," Biesterfeld said. "It's probably at least 10 yards bigger than our field. I told the guys, we're going to do a lot of subbing. You have to use the extra space, too, and not just keep the ball in the middle of the field."