MAHOMET – Champaign Central's boys' soccer team was unable to overcome a disputed first-half penalty kick goal as the Maroons fell to Normal University High 1-0 in the first round of sectional play Tuesday night.
The game's only goal came with five minutes to play in the half after the referee called a penalty on the Maroons for a push. Central coach Josh Alford said the referee set the tone early that he was going to blow his whistle a lot.
"That's where I think you have to let the boys play," Alford said. "It's a sectional final game, it's going to be a physical game. The intention of our guy was to go after the ball, not the opposing player's body."
The game was indeed physical. Referees called eight yellow cards during the game, three of which went to Central. Central senior Sean Baird was also given a red card after the conclusion of the game.
"We just pressured hard on them and played them a little more physical," Alford said.
The Maroons controlled the tempo and the ball for much of the game but just couldn't find the net. Central fired a dogged attack on the Pioneers late in the second half, including two set corner kicks.
"In the end, it's just frustrating," senior Ricardo Vega said. "We got bad calls and we just couldn't get the ball in."
"Losing is never fun," Alford said. "My boys see clearly that in the second half we should have had a goal or at least gone into overtime, but it is what it is."
Central finished 15-6-3, including a regional championship victory against Mount Zion. The team graduates 10 seniors, whom Alford said made for a fun group.
"They were fun to be around," Alford said. "They challenged me as a young coach and I just challenged them right back. They were a great senior class."