Boys soccer: Stevenson outlasts Buffalo Grove for regional crown
Stevenson's Adam Hamad has the nickname "Habibi," which per Patriots coach PepeJon Chavez translates to "loved one."
"He is just an amazing young man," said Chavez of Hamad, a senior, "who has become the leader of our team. He's a captain, but to be a leader is more than that.
"The men on our team look to him for love, respect, honor, and fun -- because that's what we like to do here at Stevenson, have fun. I am very honored to coach Adam."
Saturday afternoon on their home pitch, Hamad gave his teammates and fans even more reasons to feel the love as he scored twice to lead Stevenson past Buffalo Grove 2-1 in a Class 3A boys soccer regional championship.
The Bison struck first, but saw the Patriots rally for the victory.
"They have a lot of firepower," said BG coach Darren Llewellyn of Stevenson "and their dribblers are amazing, you can see how fast they are. So we knew it was going to be a problem trying to contain them."
Just 4 minutes in to the game, Bison senior Anthony Limber sent a corner kick which was headed in by Jorge Hernandez Lopez to give BG a 1-0 lead.
Hamad tied the score in the 22nd minute, sending a penalty kick to the back of the net.
The score remained knotted through the early portion of the second half, with BG's Arian Garcia and Oleksandr Pidgora of the Patriots playing outstanding defense.
Then, with Stevenson applying the pressure on attack, Christian Yen knocked a shot off the far post midway through the final 40 minutes -- then moments later Hamad rose to the occasion.
Hamad headed a pass just over the outstretched arm of BG keeper Charles Mancilla to give Stevenson the lead.
"We had been attacking down the wings the entire game," said Hamad of his game-winning goal. "It was working for us, so we kept doing it. I knew one more chance was coming, so I kept going to the box, and the second goal was that moment."
BG's best chance for the equalizer came in the final minute of the game when Limber sent another perfectly placed corner kick into the box.
But Patriots keeper Ryan Harper was up to the task, turning away 2 point-blank shots to preserve the victory.
"I thought we were going to score there at the end," said Llewellyn, "but we didn't, so life goes on. More power to them (Stevenson). They have a high work rate and they attacked with numbers. We're used to defending like that, but it was their dribblers that got us.
"I have six sophomores starting and seven that played a lot, so the future looks bright. We started this season 0 and 7, but in our last nine we were 5-2-2. We had some big wins and turned the season around and that is a credit to my guys."
Daniel Alfaro played a strong game for BG, creating a couple of chances late that the Bison couldn't convert into a game-tying goal.
Maksym Derhachov was strong on the offensive end for the Patriots.
"I am humbled and honored to be part of such an amazing family here at Stevenson," said Chavez. "This (the regional title) makes me feel good personally because it's my 11th year here and we've done this just one other time.
"Any team is going to put a challenge in front of us, but our boys believe in our system, and even though they (BG) got a goal early on we felt like the whole game was in front of us. I'm proud of our team."
And what does Adam "Habibi" Hamad think of his nickname?
"It's something that my senior captains once gave me," said Hamad, "and I'm just grateful that they see me like that."