Part of the charm of high school soccer is that the best team doesn’t always win – or even tie.

But one of the worst fears for any high school coach in a given postseason scenario is that his team will outplay a less-talented squad for 80 minutes or more and then be eliminated on a fluke goal.

That almost happened to top-seeded Evanston Friday night at the Class 3A Leyden Regional tournament championship game, until the Wildkits flipped the script at the last moment.

Senior Will Travis scored the game-tying goal as time ran out on the clock in regulation and goalie Chance Pape notched two saves as Evanston prevailed in a penalty-kick shootout to keep its season alive.

Evanston’s 2-1 victory over Lane Tech showed just how adept the Wildkits are at their version of “beat the clock.” It also earned the winners, now 14-2-4 overall, a spot in the New Trier Sectional semifinals at 5 p.m. on Tuesday against Glenbrook South.

Veteran Wildkit head coach Franz Calixte will know to listen to his seniors if it ever happens again.

“Guys like Quinton Jones and some of the other seniors kept saying you gotta believe, you gotta believe, but I can’t pretend I thought we were going to score at the end,” Calixte confessed. “I guess I didn’t believe.

“We pushed everyone forward before we got that last corner, but we had to keep yelling at them to put the ball in the box, not to keep looking for another pass, that’s why I didn’t think we’d score. We weren’t playing with enough urgency. But at the end, luck was on our side.

“I’ve been around the game since I was 10 years old and I’ve never seen one end with a last-second goal. This was a tough one, but we’ll take it.”

The odds on ETHS converting a play that started with a corner kick were long, indeed, because the Wildkits have struggled to score on restarts all season, despite their overall success.

The ball was deflected out of bounds with eight seconds showing on the clock, and then the Kits pulled off the most dramatic finish in program history.

“Patrick [Osilaja] played a good ball in,” recalled Travis. “It sort of bounced around and came to my left, and I took a touch around my man and just hit it hard to the left corner with about a second left. I thought we did a good job of crashing and pushing forward at the end.”

After two scoreless overtime periods, the Wildkits outscored Lane 3-2 on penalty kicks with Jones, Sam Darer and Diego Velasquez converting their dead-ball chances to make the difference.

Pape chalked up saves on Lane Tech’s last two tries and the losers also missed a penalty kick.

Lane Tech scored midway through the first half – “I don’t think it even came on a shot, it was a fluke,” according to Calixte – and then adopted a defensive stance to keep the favored Wildkits out of the net.

Sebastian Leon, ETHS’s leading scorer, was denied on an in-game penalty kick in the first half.


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