La PORTE — For Imanol Chavez, his first high school goal couldn't have come at a better time.
With his La Porte boys soccer team deadlocked in a 2-2 tie midway through the second half, his squad was searching for a hero. Chavez gladly filled that role on Monday night, earning his first prep tally to guide the Slicers to a dramatic, 3-2 win over Wheeler at Kesling Park.
His game-winner was from about 30 yards out in the middle of the field with 20:10 left. And he finished it to the upper left portion of the goal.
Chavez, a senior defender, doesn't usually even attempt a shot, so for him to net such a pivotal goal, it was pretty extraordinary.
"I wanted to cry tears of joy it was so good," Chavez said. "I've never scored in my high school career. I just felt so happy. I was so pumped. I was ready to win the game."
That set off a wild celebration with his teammates on the field.
“That's what he should have done,” La Porte assistant coach Mike Feikes said. “He was open. He came up a little bit. Usually he's supposed to be farther back. He doesn't get many chances to score in the games. Nobody was around him and it was his time to take it. He made the right choice for sure.”
Feikes was filling in for head coach Pat McCoy, who missed the match due to sickness.
It was a much-needed victory for the Slicers (3-5-1), who have struggled most of this season. They overcame two deficits, though, and held off the Bearcats (0-7) in the last 13 minutes.
Wheeler had a 4-1-1 record entering this match, but it found out earlier on Monday it had been using an ineligible player, so that's why they're technically winless.
The Bearcats jumped ahead 1-0 a mere 24 seconds into the match. Jackson Koroluk netted a goal to put La Porte in a very early hole.
The Slicers responded in the 10th minute with Salvador Martinez's tally to tie the contest, 1-1. But the visitors again took a lead after Tim Durall's goal with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half. La Porte then scored right before the break on sophomore Jose Villano's free kick from roughly 25 yards out near the top of the goalie's box with seven seconds left. His shot went off the hands of Wheeler's diving keeper into the far left part of the goal to knot the score, 2-2, at half.
“We work on a few plays and free kicks, it's a lot of practice,” Feikes said of Villano's tally. “Usually you have one or two guys on the team who are really good at striking the dead ball and Jose is one of those guys. He got all of it. It was a well-placed shot.”
After half, the Slicers primarily controlled possession and had numerous chances to score.
“In the second half, they kind of wore down a little bit,” Feikes added. “And we got them with our fitness finally. We just finished strong. Everybody was hustling out there.”
Chavez then found the back of the net midway through the second stanza to seal his team's emotional win.
“My heart dropped once I hit it,” Chavez said. “I felt so happy. I was so happy when I scored the goal. It really brought the team enthusiasm up. We just kept playing harder after the goal.”
La Porte sophomore goalie Gilberto Garcia notched the victory.
"He made a couple good saves," Feikes said. "He was a little timid at first, but then he started talking to the guys and that really made a difference back there."
Wheeler's first shot of the second half didn't come until the 13:23 mark, nearly 27 minutes into the half.
There was no junior varsity game.
La Porte 3, Wheeler 2
Salvador Martinez and Jose Villano also scored for the Slicers.