CHAMPAIGN — At some point, Centennial's Chargers figured to come up short even when putting forth their best — or close to it — effort. The odds suggest as much.
That time arrived Tuesday.
Despite generating a number of quality scoring chances, the Chargers fell to Springfield 2-0 in the Class 2A Centennial Sectional semifinals, ending their bid for a third straight sectional crown.
"(Needed) little more magic dust this time," Centennial coach Imants Jaunarajs said.
That's just about all that the Chargers (12-7-5) lacked. They created two high-quality scoring chances in the first five minutes, missed on another opportunity when the Springfield keeper was caught out of his net late in the half, and overall managed to prevent Senators standout Will Teichman from taking over the match.
"I thought we played well," Jaunarajs said. "It really could have gone either way."
Springfield (20-3), however, made the key plays at the end, scoring twice in the final six minutes.
Teichman got it started, slipping a 25-foot direct kick over the head of keeper Andy Drackley for the first goal. The shot came into the face of a steady headwind, checking up just enough after the ball initially appeared to be heading over the crossbar.
"The wind brought it back in goal," Centennial defender Peter Mehnert said. "We didn't expect it. Andy didn't expect it. I don't know if the guy who shot it expected it. Things fall that way sometimes."
Springfield tacked on the second goal with 18 seconds remaining.
The loss ended a three-year run of postseason success for the Chargers' seniors, who parlayed a string of heart-pounding victories to back-to-back sectional titles. By the Chargers' lofty standards, they had a good-but-not-great regular season, stunted somewhat by injuries, but hit their stride when healthy in the postseason. It provided some measure of satisfaction.
"Obviously at the regional semifinal we could field our full roster," Mehnert said. "It meant a lot to me that we could compete."
"We were healthy in the beginning and we played very good," Jaunarajs said. "We got good results against very good teams. Then everyone got hurt, we had grades, all kinds of stuff. When we were healthy, we played well again."
Mehnert is one of seven senior starters who played his final match.
"It's tough to fall short sometimes," he said. "You could wish for more, but sometimes it doesn't go that way."