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Pottsgrove tops Bishop Shanahan for first district title since 2008

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NEWTOWN >> To be sure, none of them were part of the last Pottsgrove boys soccer team to win a district title.

Pottsgrove’s Tyler Rolando, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with Will Kaiser (6) and the rest of the Falcons late in the District 1-AA championship Thursday at Council Rock North. (John Strickler - The Mercury)

Pottsgrove’s Tyler Rolando, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with Will Kaiser (6) and the rest of the Falcons late in the District 1-AA championship Thursday at Council Rock North. (John Strickler – The Mercury)

But Thursday evening, the current crop of Falcons got that experience – to go along with the championship hardware – with a 2-1 win over Bishop Shanahan in the District 1 Class AA title game at Council Rock North’s Walt Snyder Stadium.

Tyler Rolando headed home the title-clinching goal with 3:41 left, coming off a corner kick from Will Kaiser. It netted the Falcons (13-9) a district championship for the first time since the 2008 season; it also advanced them to state-level play, which they will open next Tuesday against the District 11 champ at a site and time to be established.

“We’re young, and we didn’t know how to play together,” Kaiser said while his teammates enjoyed possession of the district’s AA trophy. “That’s what the team learned this year.”

Rolando’s goal came less than 17 minutes after Shanahan pulled even with Richard Zink booting the ball into an empty Pottsgrove net. The Falcons had struck first at the 7:52 mark of the first half, Kaiser nailing a penalty kick beyond the reach of a lunging Shanahan goalkeeper Pat Delaney.

From that point, Pottsgrove got another defensive effort worthy of comparison to Tuesday’s semifinal-round win over Holy Ghost Prep. The Falcon “D” left third-seeded Shanahan empty on four pushes around their goal in the first half of the second half.

Pottsgrove goalkeeper Liam Abdalla clears the ball as Bishop Shanahan’s Harrison Coron and Pottsgrove’s Noah Lear track the ball Thursday. (John Strickler - The Mercury)

Pottsgrove goalkeeper Liam Abdalla clears the ball as Bishop Shanahan’s Harrison Coron and Pottsgrove’s Noah Lear track the ball Thursday. (John Strickler – The Mercury)

“Absolutely,” Pottsgrove head coach Jay Witkowski said. “The guys picked the right time to get hot.”

Justin Toth, one of the half-dozen seniors on the Falcons’ otherwise-youngish roster, was particularly joyous about his team’s sweep of three District 1-AA opponents in the playoffs.

“For a senior, this is 10 times better,” he said. “We started off slow … but we didn’t want to take it into overtime. It was a game of opportunities.”

For Kaiser, the opportunity to make the winning impact on the game was a matter of creating the right circumstance.

“It was a big adrenaline rush,” he recalled.” We pushed a lot of guys in the box, and I wanted to give the guys something to work with.”

From there, the Falcons ran the clock out to prevent third-seeded Shanahan from pushing the game into overtime.

“We knew, coming in, they were coming after us,” Toth said.”We won over them in the regular season.”

The championship finish left Pottsgrove coming close to meeting a challenge Witkowski posed to them during a regular season that saw the Falcons get off to an 0-3 start.

“After we lost to Spring-Ford, the coaches challenged the guys to run the table,” he recalled. “They came close to doing it, losing to Springfield-Delco but winning the rest.
“That ended up being the turning point of our season. There was a lot of heart out there.”

Facing the new (for them) experience of playing in the state tournament, Toth and his classmates will utilize a contrasting approach in guiding their younger teammates.

“From the way we played Tuesday and Thursday,” he said, “we want to keep the pressure up and play hard.”

“It’s a new game,” Kaiser added, “but we want them to have fun.”

The Pottsgrove boys soccer team celebrates with the champion’s trophy after defeating Bishop Shanahan 2-1 in the District 1-AA boys soccer final Thursday at Council Rock North. (John Strickler - The Mercury)

The Pottsgrove boys soccer team celebrates with the champion’s trophy after defeating Bishop Shanahan 2-1 in the District 1-AA boys soccer final Thursday at Council Rock North. (John Strickler – The Mercury)

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