HAMMOND — For the last two years, Morton forward Erick Torres has watched his teammates cement the program as one of the Region's best. Academically ineligible, he couldn't play a part.
Finally, he's getting in on the action. With star midfielder Paul Bogarin having left for the Indy Eleven academy, Torres leads the Governors with 11 goals. The senior scored a second-half hat trick Thursday to spark a 4-2 comeback victory for Times No. 3 Morton over No. 9 Clark.
“Watching the games from the sidelines last year gave me the quick bump up (in motivation) to bring the team up,” Torres said. “(Bogarin) said he was gonna leave, and I had to pick it up and carry the team.”
Torres still talks with Bogarin, and Bogarin told Torres to make Morton proud and repeat as sectional champs. Both players are dangerous goal-scorers, but the way they put the ball in the back of the net differs.
Morton coach Chris Jagadich said Torres brings a more direct style of play — while Bogarin played as an attacking midfielder with more passing responsibility, Torres is up top. Jagadich said both are physical players, and Torres battled through a hip injury to score three times on Clark in 30 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
“He scores when he wants to,” Jagadich said. “He's got a nose for it, he's hungry for it. … He's trying to fit three seasons into one.”
Senior midfielder Moises Tirado also started on the bench due to a groin injury, and Clark (6-1) immediately took advantage. Before one minute had gone by, Alexis Frasco found freshman midfielder Luis Limones, who broke free and chipped the keeper to grab a 1-0 lead.
Neither team saw any more clear-cut chances until early in the second half. Clark senior forward Marco Medina corralled a long pass from Frasco and added the Pioneers' second chipped goal of the match to make it 2-0.
Torres held off a Clark center back to score from close range 10 minutes later, and he added his second on a header after another 10. Clark coach Cristian Garcia said the young, talented Pioneers crumbled in the heat, as they allowed an own goal to give Morton (5-1) the lead before Torres bagged his third.
“The boys were super hyped about this opportunity, and despite the heat, they were playing 150 percent,” Garcia said. “I think we've got to get back to working a little bit on fitness, because the guys' legs gave out.”