The madcap world of postseason boys soccer for Prospect continued Friday night in the rain at the Hoffman Estates regional final.
The No. 16 seed Knights (9-8-3) used a 70th-minute goal from Chris Srednicki to take the lead, then held off No. 9 Conant in the final 10 minutes to capture the championship trophy and book a spot in next week's sectional at Conant against the winner of Saturday's Libertyville-Highland regional final at Elk Grove.
Three days after stunning the top sectional seed, MSL champ Palatine, the Knights added to their storybook run against another conference rival.
After a commanding opening 40 minutes, it appeared Kurt Trenkle's team was well on its way after junior Zach Surico broke the goal-less match open with a strike at 45 minutes from 15 yards.
"It was so important to get that first goal and the lead, but as we have on several occasions, we didn't manage the lead well and we let things get away from us," said Trenkle.
Prospect switched to a 3-4-3 formation late in the season and went 6-1-0 during that span.
"Our attack needed some new life, and that move seems to be exactly what we needed," Trenkle said.
The Cougars (8-10-2), who stymied a very good Lake Forest side in a 4-0 win in the regional opener Tuesday, were on their heels from the very beginning, pinned in their own end thanks to the play of Srednicki, Alex Whiteman, Joe Tuczak and others.
"That was not a very good first half of soccer from us," said Conant coach Jason Franco. "We came out so flat, unlike the other night against Lake Forest. We finally got back to playing with some urgency after the break and created some things, including the PK by Gio (Rocha) to really open up the game and give us the momentum at that time. But Prospect did what they had to, and they are not a No. 16 seed. Like us, they're a battle tested team from the MSL, and they were able to use that to get one late and make it hold up."
After the Knights were unable to clear a long throw from Blake Fairbanks into the box, the center official saw a hand ball and put Rocha at the spot. He drove his kick past keeper Jack Cooney.
Just before intermission, Cooney pulled a sure goal out of the back of the net from Fairbanks, who ran to the back post to meet Austin Roback's superb cross from the left side.
The match really opened up after the Cougars drew even. A perfectly played tackle by Kevin Quinn helped parry away an attempt from Prospect's Matt Wruskyj, and Eduardo Ocampo had a go in close after he caught up to a wonderful early ball sent in from Rocha.
Prospect sunk the Cougars for good 10 minutes from time after Srednicki got a shot past keeper Patryk Openchowski with a left-footed smash on a rebound chance following a Matt Burikas free kick.
"I am left-footed, and I just turned and got my hips around and let it go," said Srednicki. " I guess it was hit too hard for him to keep it out of the net."
"It doesn't get easier from here on out, but I am very happy for the result, and with the way we played when we had to," said Trenkle.