Working on the end line against Oak Forest, St. Rita senior Kenya Sumpter dribbled the ball through the defense and squeezed off a shot at Bengals goalie Tommy Roche.
The shot ricocheted into the net, sparking a late comeback for the St. Rita Mustangs in the sectional semifinal.
However, the Mustangs ran out of time before they could knock in the equalizer and their historic season ended with a 3-2 loss to Oak Forest on Oct. 29 in the Class 2A Kankakee sectional semifinal.
However, for Sumpter, the goal and the effort were special after he missed much of his junior year with an ACL tear in his left knee. He now plays with a brace on that knee.
“Getting hurt, I wasn’t here last year [on the field],” Sumpter said. “It nagged me that I couldn’t be part of that team. I wanted to make my mark and do something this year. I’m not at 100 percent, but I was going to try as hard as I can. That goal meant a lot to me—a lot.”
Setting a new single-season mark for wins, St. Rita finished 17-5-1. The Mustangs also won their first regional title since 1990.
For midfielder Brendan Breslin, it was a heartbreaking end to a memorable senior campaign.
But in comparison to where the team was last year, losing in a regional final to Oak Forest, Breslin knows the team has the potential for continued success.
“It’s going to sting and stay with me,” Breslin said. “Now for these [underclassmen], they’ve had a chance to play in this game. When we lost in the regional final, we knew we could build off that. We ended up winning a regional. Hopefully, we can build on this moment and get to our end goal.”
The Mustangs started off on a rough note. Oak Forest scored less than 3 minutes into the game, eventually going up 3-0 with 27 minutes left in the second half.
Unable to click through 50-plus minutes, Sumpter helped jumpstart a rally with his goal against Roche.
Junior Julio Walton (Beverly) continued to chip away, blasting a beautiful one-timer from straight on 25 yards out with 6:04 remaining.
However, in the closing minutes, St. Rita couldn’t get the equalizer as Walton hit the left post on a shot and junior Logan Corum ripped a shot over the crossbar with 40 seconds left.
“I can’t believe that post one didn’t go in,” Walton said. “We started off slow. We came in fighting, and even down 3-0, we did our best.”
Roche and St. Rita freshman goalkeeper Kyler Sumpter finished with 10 saves apiece in net during a fast-paced, back-and-forth game.
Continuing to work back from his knee injury, Kenya Sumpter enjoyed the moment, especially getting a chance this season to play with his younger brother Kyler.
“It’s really something special. Not a lot of people can say they played with their brother,” Kenya said. “My brother is the starting keeper. That was cool. We hadn’t played together in a long time, so that meant a lot to me.”
Starting players Walton, Kyler Sumpter, Corum, Brendan Gleeson (St. Christina), Chuy Flores and Luis Salgado are expected back as the Mustangs strive to take another step forward in 2020.
“We’ll really miss these seniors. They’ve done so much for us and helped throughout the year pushing forward,” Walton said. “It’s amazing. I hope we continue next year.”
Walton, Flores, Breslin, senior defender Tyler Padilla and senior forward Langston Bedgood were named to the All-Chicago Catholic League Team.
Bedgood was also named the Chicago Catholic League-Green Lawless Award winner, which is presented to the top senior in each league division.
St. Rita Coach Bob Kellam said his team maintained its competive fire until the final horn.
“We’re a resilient team. I couldn’t tell you how many games that we’ve come back as a team down a goal,” Kellam said. “It would have been tougher if we lost 3-0. We came back in and pinned them in. We had the momentum but ran out of time.”