Talk about delayed gratification. Word broke late Wednesday the Pepsi Showdown championship match of No. 3 Morton and No. 4 Lane has been pushed back a week to Oct. 6th, at Toyota Park, in Bridgeview, at noon.
"We were looking forward to playing [this] Sunday," Lane senior Sergio Fuentes said. "Now we just have to wait a week."
The Pepsi Showdown has often functioned as a microcosm of the season, a grueling tournament that provides excellent context for gauging team's strengths, Lane making the championship underscores the wider strength of the Public League.
In a year without a clear-cut favorite for the state title (though No. 10 Wheaton Academy looks awfully imposing in Class 2A), Lane picked the right time to have potentially its greatest team ever. "We can play with any team in the state," coach Andrew Ricks said.
The 13-1-1 Indians beat Lyons, the defending tournament champion, on its own field en route to the final. They also beat a somewhat wounded though very dangerous Libertyville team in double overtime in the semifinals. Lyons and Libertyville were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, to start the year.
Not even Mather's dominant Class 2A state title team of two years ago reached the championship round. Lane is a trailblazer in that regard. The Indians are the headliner, though one of the intriguing subplots of this year's field was the impressive showing of Public League teams. That was evident on the first round of play, at Lyons.
The Public League nearly went 5-0 on that day. Lane, Washington, Kelly and Solorio (in an upset of Larkin) each advanced to the second round. Young gave Wheaton Academy everything it wanted before falling 2-1 in double-overtime.
The larger lessons from the Pepsi Showdown reiterate the state-wide parity. (Another interesting sidebar to the championship match: enrollment figures. Morton and Lane, by a wide margin, are the state's two largest schools, when you adjust the IHSA multiplier, in Lane's case. Morton has 8,158 students. Lane has 4,41, but that number goes to just under 6,678, as a non-boundary school.)
Morton is in the final for the second consecutive year and third time in the last four years. Mike Caruso's team, which won the Class 3A state title two years ago, is rarely flashy; the Mustangs just win, typically by narrow margins of 1-0, or 2-1. The one-goal differential sometimes comes back to haunt the Mustangs, like last year in a Class 3A regional final against Oak Park-River Forest.
Like boxing, styles make the game. Sometimes it's contrasting and sometimes dovetailing movements. Morton and Lane both prefer textbook movement, cutting and possession games.
Nationally ranked: Top-ranked Hinsdale Central and No. 2 St. Charles East have both been acknowledged in the national rankings of StudentSports. The Red Devils reached as high as No. 9, before its 1-1 draw with Naperville Central last week. Hinsdale Central checks in at No. 16 in the most recently posted rankings. St. Charles East is now the highest rated local school, at No. 14. Benet is now listed at No. 35.