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Raiders Defeat Knights to Secure Sectional Championship

Raiders Defeat Knights to Secure Sectional Championship

At 6 feet 3 inches tall and around 200 kilos, Leif Steele is a giant weapon for North Shore Country Day. So how come he’s a daily along the sidelines?

The reply can often be found on the scoreboard.

Along with his powerful throw-ins, which usually come inside a couple of yards of the goal line, Steele is a creator from the sidelines, and his efforts led to each goals within the Raiders’ 2-0 win against Cristo Rey St. Martin Tuesday evening in an IHSA Class 1A sectional championship at Marine Leadership Academy in Chicago.

Steele said the long throw-ins are all about gaining a bonus on the opponent.

“Obviously it’s a giant strength if we are able to get the ball in a spot where most teams can’t,” he said. “It’s all about putting yourself able to get anything up on the opposite team.”

Raiders senior Leif Steele (9) fights through the Knights defense in the course of the sectional bout.

The victory gave NSCD its first sectional crown since 2019, when the Raiders went on to complete fourth within the state. En path to Thursday’s win, NSCD picked up its fifth straight regional title (no IHSA tournament in 2020).

Steele and the Raiders got off to a quick start on Thursday, finding the online just 109 seconds into the match.

Junior Henry Gallun headed a Steele throw-in up and over the Cristo Rey St. Martin keeper and into the far side of the online.

The goal was a part of a dominant first half for the Raiders who had several other opportunities, including a penalty kick, that they may not convert. NSCD coach Kyle Jones was disillusioned but not apprehensive.

“I knew we could still create possibilities and it was nice to get that second (goal, late within the second half),” Jones said. “We could have had three or 4, but their keeper made some terrific saves.”

Jones also credited his team’s defense, calling it “top notch” for squashing the Knights’ counterattacks all evening.

The Raiders’ second tally also began with a Steele throw-in toward Gallun. Gallun tried again to flick a header back to the far post, nevertheless it was deflected. The loose ball took a bounce within the box and NSCD junior Kai Zavala reached it first. His touch went into the upper portion of the goal, just past a leaping Knights defender.

Senior captain Danny Becker controls the ball for North Shore Country Day.

The Knights put forth a valiant effort in the ultimate jiffy, creating multiple scoring possibilities. But none of them were successful, and the Raiders soon celebrated on the pitch.

“It feels good. We had gameplan,” Jones said. “We saw them play and our assistant coaches did an important job of understanding their team and their tendencies. And we prepared well.

“I could tell just by the bus ride our guys were hungry and so they just executed the gameplan to perfection. I believed we were the higher team and created the higher possibilities.”

A lot of those possibilities were the results of Knights’ fouls.

Cristo Rey St. Martin was whistled for 20 infractions — 11 including a yellow card in the primary half — to only six for North Shore Country Day.

Steele, as often one in every of the largest players on the sector, said he’s used to the physical play and he and his teammates just had to maintain their composure and power through it.

The Raiders smother Kai Zavala after the junior’s goal within the second half.

Jones added that the whole team was prepared for the Knights’ aggressiveness.

“We knew we were going to get a variety of fouls from the sport film,” he said. “We said to the boys if you happen to get fouled, get right back up and go again. They wish to foul us, we’ll take it. They’re team. They’re group of lads, but someone has to lose and I’m pleased it wasn’t us.”

The Raiders move on to the supersectional round with just eight teams let in Class 1A. They are going to play University High (Chicago), which emerged from the Chicago Hope Academy where it was the No. 5 seed, on noon Saturday, Oct. 28, at Marine Leadership Academy.

The Raiders bested Uni High 2-1 on Sept. 30 in Winnetka. Uni High was the winner of the 1A state championship in 2019.


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