TINLEY PARK | If the Wildcats had to lose, this was the way they wanted to do it.
Thornton Township lost 2-1 in overtime to Sandburg in a highly competitive match at the 3A Andrew Sectional final.
After 65 scoreless minutes, Sandburg got on the board late in the second half, but the Wildcats quickly tied the match to send the game to overtime. In the OT, the Eagles' Marty Manzke scored his second goal of the match to send Sandburg on to the super-sectional.
"If we're going to go down, that's the way you want to go down," Wildcats' coach David Gonzalez said. "I was hoping we could take that next step, but it's OK. Everybody understands, if you want to take that next step, you have to get through (Sandburg)."
The match stayed in the middle of the field in the first half. In the second, Sandburg quickly seized control and saw plenty of scoring chances develop in front of the Thornton goal. Sandburg finally connected off of a corner kick to take a brief 1-0 lead with 14:52 remaining.
"It came down to set plays," Gonzalez said. "The worst thing that it could come down to other than PKs. I knew we were in it the whole time, even in the overtime when they scored their goal, I knew we would still be in it."
Three minutes after Sandburg got on the board, Thornton's Farouk Amoo tied the match when he put a diving header off of a Ruben Salgado corner kick past the keeper. That helped to swing momentum to the Wildcats for the final 10 minutes of play.
"We played our best, but the soccer gods didn't give it to us," Amoo said. "I knew I had to put a head on that ball to make it go in. The defender wasn't marking me so I just went for it. This was my first year here, and I really love these guys. It was a wonderful experience."
The Wildcats (19-3) played in their second straight overtime game at the Andrew Sectional, and after coming up with a 3-2 win over Marist on Tuesday. Thornton was unable to find a goal when they needed one in OT Friday evening.
"If this is a sectional championship, this is what you wanted to see," Gonzalez said. "Two teams battle it out right to the last minute, and I'm glad we were able to push them down to the wire."