AURORA – After 77-plus intense but relatively uneventful minutes of soccer, all heck broke loose in Wednesday night's Suburban Christian Conference title clash between Marmion and Wheaton Academy.
Wheaton Academy emerged with a 2-1, double overtime win, but not before the crowd at chilly Fichtel Field was treated to theatrics of the highest order.
With the conference championship hanging in the balance, Wheaton Academy went ahead, 1-0, after a disputed penalty kick call was converted by the Warriors' Grant Stoneman with 2:42 left in the second half.
The Cadets were livid in the immediate aftermath of the foul called on standout midfielder Matt Switzer, and defender Jake Hutchison was issued a red card for his heated reaction.
Down a man and short on time, the Cadets' outlook was dire until freshman Conor Morton uncorked a dynamite shot to tie the match with 55 seconds left. Morton's blast from about 30 yards out came off his left foot, soaring out of the reach of Warriors goalkeeper Spencer Graf.
Morton said he has scored on deep shots with his off foot before but acknowledged "not that far out. That was a record."
"No words can describe that – it was just such a good feeling," Morton said. "I saw the chance open up and just ripped it."
Suburban Christian Conference rules called for a pair of 5 minute, sudden death overtimes, but not before Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke made sure the shock of Marmion's late goal didn't render his players shell-shocked.
"We really regrouped right before overtime and just said, ‘Hey, we're playing a great game, they've got an emotional ride right now, props to that kid, hats off to him, but let's keep playing our style and get it done,’" Brooke said. "I'm proud of the guys."
Warriors senior Gareth Flynn reeled in a feed from Stoneman and cracked one past Cadets goalkeeper Brian Hymel with 4:07 left in the second overtime to deliver the conference championship to the Warriors (16-6, 8-0 SCC).
"Great pass from Stone, went through a couple legs, just right on the PK [circle], took a touch and toed it in," Flynn said.
Stoneman, a Burlington Central transfer, was the most dangerous player on the field for much of the night. In addition to his PK goal and match-winning assist, he had a couple of Wheaton Academy's best scoring chances during regulation.
"He's been a great addition to the team," Flynn said. "He brings great technical work, good work rate – he's just an all-around great player."
The loss snapped a 14-match unbeaten streak for Marmion (14-6-2, 7-1 SCC), one shy of a program record. Morton's goal was a team-leading 13th on the season.
Morton is one of several promising underclassmen for Marmion, taking a smidgen of the sting out of Wednesday night's disappointment for first-year Cadets coach Ricky Del Toro.
"We've still got the postseason now [this year] but we have a bright future here at Marmion," Del Toro said.
Because of Hutchison's red card, the Cadets, who were moved up to Class 3A this year, will be without a starting defender when they take on Wheaton Warrenville South on Tuesday in a Naperville North Regional semifinal.
The Warriors, meanwhile, will be among the favorites in the 2A tournament, and also start Tuesday at the Chicago University Regional.