It has been like riding a bike for Lake Central junior Emilio Zambrano.
After playing as a central defender during the regular season, Zambrano shifted to attacking midfield for the Class 3A Munster Sectional.
Back in a more offensive-minded role, Zambrano scored two goals in Saturday’s championship game as the Indians topped Morton 5-1.
“Making the move back there was a shock to me,” Zambrano said of being on defense. “I wasn’t used to it.
“Moving forward, that’s where I play, that’s where I’m most comfortable, and I was able to contribute.”
Zambrano started at forward as a freshman and sophomore, but Lake Central (9-5-3) had a need this season on defense.
Zambrano made the move for Wednesday’s sectional semifinal against Highland due to the continued strong play of sophomore defender Quentin Enyeart, a two-year starter; the emergence of senior defender Bryce Gross; and the performance of junior defensive midfielder Geno Zambrano, Emilio’s twin, in the six games since he was inserted into the lineup.
After defeating Morton (15-4), Lake Central plays South Bend Adams (6-7-1) at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Penn Regional semifinals. The Indians regained the sectional after their loss to Munster in last season’s semifinals ended a streak of 15 straight titles.
“Getting it back, it’s unbelievable, it’s awesome,” Emilio said. “We never should’ve lost it, but it happens. But we fought back and that’s what matters.”
Before departing school for Saturday’s game, Lake Central coach Jereme Rainwater took his team to visit the trophy case.
“They say you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” Rainwater said. “Being able to have these kids turn it around and get this trophy is a great feeling for a lot of different reasons.
“They understand the history. They were on a mission to get it back.”
Morton, which broke through last season for the program’s first sectional, took a step toward back-to-back titles by scoring Saturday’s first goal.
With 32:42 showing on the first-half clock, Moises Tirado converted a penalty kick after standout forward Erick Torres was taken down in the box.
But Lake Central, with a stiff wind at its back, tied the score 17 minutes later on Emilio Zambrano’s goal assisted by Rob MacNeill.
Against the wind, the Indians proceeded to score four goals in the second half.
“We weren’t scared of going against the wind because of the type of soccer we play,” Rainwater said. “Building up the field is something we were confident we could do.”
Zambrano scored the go-ahead goal with 36 minutes left off a feed from Jack Bailey.
Sophomore forward Jake Noldin followed with two goals, and Youssef Errihani completed the scoring on another assist from Bailey.
Morton coach Chris Jagadich, whose team had posted three straight undefeated regular seasons before this season, offered perspective.
“We dealt with adversity this year when there wasn’t a lot the last few years,” Jagadich said. “But this year we were tested, and I’m proud how these guys fought back all season. It was just one test that was too much to overcome.”