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Larkin suffers shutout loss in Pepsi Showdown semis

Updated: September 15, 2012 9:23PM

Larkin was able to keep reigning state champion Morton at bay for 49 minutes Saturday.

Then the Mustangs broke down the door. Danny Eufracio and Joel Leon both scored goals in a 1:42 span and Morton rolled to a 3-0 victory in the Pepsi Showdown semifinals in LaGrange.

The fifth-seeded Mustangs (12-0) will try for their second Pepsi championship in three years when they face Lyons in the title match Sept. 23 at Toyota Park.

“The first half we came out slow and they were outhustling us, but when the half got to us Coach [Mike Caruso] gave us a great speech and we had to come out playing because we only had 40 minutes left,” Leon said. “If we lose, we don’t go to Toyota Park and our dream was to go to Toyota Park.”

Eufracio got things started when he tapped in a cross from Chebelo Marquez with 30:47 left in the second half on a play that Mario Romero started with a long lead pass from the midfield. Leon, a senior sweeper, followed with a backbreaking tally when he used the back of his head to knock a long free kick from Abdon Delgado under the crossbar at the 29:05 mark.

“I thought the second goal was the biggest one we had,” Caruso said. “We don’t make a mistake about it; Abdon serves it and aims for the crossbar and Joel Leon, they know it’s coming to him but he’s just got that tendency to find it with his head. He’s our heart and soul back there.”

Leon’s strike, his fourth of the season, seemed to take the heart out of third-seeded Larkin (8-2), which was trying to reach its first Pepsi final since 2008.

“With our firepower we know we have a lot of guys that can score, so we never feel we’re out of a game,” Larkin coach Ken Hall said. “This is our fourth game here and we were down 1-0 in every game.

“The sloppy play in the second half just killed us a little bit. We just made mistakes we shouldn’t have made and with a quality team like them, they’re going to bury you.”

The Royals nearly got on the board with 22:25 remaining, but Morton sophomore goalie Ian Chacon made a diving save on a header by Griffin Perez. The Mustangs’ Giovani Garcia then scored an insurance goal with 3:46 left after the Larkin goalie whiffed on a clearing attempt. Chacon made seven saves as Larkin was shut out for the first time since a season-opening 1-0 loss to Leyden.

“First half I thought we had the better of the play,” Hall said. “Their goalie played well. When we had our chances we didn’t capitalize and when you make those mistakes the ball is in the back of the net.”

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