Andrew was determined to play spoiler Saturday, and Thornton Co-op struggled to put the Thunderbolts away.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Ricky Estrada knows how to bury a free kick.
Estrada found the net from 33 yards out to give Thornton a 3-1 lead and the Wildcats hung on for a 3-2 SouthWest Suburban Red win in Tinley Park.
“We were getting frustrated that we weren’t scoring, but we just tried to keep our cool,” Estrada said. “I got the free kick and I just tried to blast it in. Fortunately it went in.”
With the win and Lincoln-Way East’s loss to Bradley on Saturday afternoon, Thornton (15-2, 5-0) clinched at least a share of the Red title for the second straight year. The Wildcats can win the league outright for the first time with a victory Tuesday over the Griffins in Harvey.
“I’m very excited [about Tuesday’s game],” Thornton’s Emmanuel Barjebo said. “We just need to focus and get the job done. This is what we’ve been playing for all season.”
Andrew (5-8-2, 1-4) cut a 2-0 deficit in half when Jesus Mendez converted a penalty kick with 34:43 left in the match.
The T-Bolts were out-possessed all day and had just two shots on goal, but they made them count.
After Estrada upped the lead to two, Andrew struck back as Jonathan Sustaita collected the ball off a deflection and went top shelf with a perfectly-placed shot from 35 yards out.
Sustaita nearly tied the match off a corner kick with six minutes left, but fired just high and Thornton held on for the win.
“The kids really wanted this one and they knew how good Thornton was,” Andrew coach Pat MacDonald said. “This was one of our best outings of the season and we just have to keep making progress.”
Farouk Amoo scored a beautiful first-half goal for Thornton, firing a shot from 30 yards out inside the far post. Barjebo’s goal made it 2-0 with 38 minutes left.