FRANCONIA >> It was the start of a very big week for the North Penn boys soccer team and the Knights wanted to make sure they got it started the right way and quickly.
They certainly accomplished that. A seemingly endless wave of runs and passes forward struck from all over as North Penn rattled host Souderton 6-0 Tuesday afternoon. Six different Knights scored with senior Nate Baxter setting the pace with his opening tally and a pair of assists.
With big matches against Central Bucks South (Thursday) and La Salle (Saturday) yet to play, it was the start the Knights wanted.
“Our speed up top was a factor and we moved the ball pretty well to be able to break them down,” North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “We got a couple early goals and that just makes a huge difference.”
It would be remiss not to mention the Knights’ (5-1-0, 3-1-0 Suburban One League Continental) defense, which pitched its fifth shutout of the season and has allowed just one goal all year. With its center back tandem of Noah Kwortnik and freshman Carter Houlihan covering a lot of ground, the Knights kept Souderton’s shifty forwards from getting in behind them.
Houlihan, whose older sister Riley is a four-year starter on the girls soccer team, has been a breakout player this season, teaming with the towering Kwortnik, who seems to win just about every ball in the air.
“We didn’t want to let them turn and play through the ball,” Houlihan said. “We wanted to make sure we stepped to them and got on their backs. We have a lot of chemistry back there, we all know each other’s style of play and know how to work with each other.”
After about 12 minutes of feeling the game out, the Knights broke it open with a three goal spree in less than nine minutes of game play. A shot by Mike Kohler was stopped by Souderton keeper Mitchell Race, but Baxter was right there in the box to hammer home with 27:40 left in the first half.
The second came seven minutes later when Kwortnick headed down a Knights free kick into the Souderton box and it made its way to Jack Johnston, who fired from an angle to the far post. The final strike of opening volleys came when Baxter won his way onto a through ball and found Luke McMahon, who had made a great run, and McMahon carried it the rest of the way for the finish.
“We wanted to come out quickly, get that early goal and put (Souderton) down,” Baxter said. “I wouldn’t say it’s just me and Luke, it’s all of us up there. We all know how each other play, like the defense does, and we can play well around that.”
BOYS SOCCER 20:19 1st half: North Penn 2, Souderton 0
Jack Johnston doubles the lead pic.twitter.com/pDOw55NNpW
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) September 20, 2016
Souderton (3-3-0, 1-3-0), has had some good results this season but could only watch Tuesday as its attack was stifled by the Knights. A couple of tantalizing moments by senior Nick Marculo only yielded half-chances in the first half.
“They were outstanding, and I’ve known that for a while. I’ve seen North Penn play a couple times this year and they’ve got size, they’ve got speed and technique, they’re a great team and Paul has them playing really well,” Souderton coach Matt Benner said. “A lot a respect, a lot of praise goes out to them but it definitely was not our best showing. We came out a little slow out of the gates, lacked a little bit of the normal passion and giddy-up we have.”
Leading 3-0 at the break, the Knights didn’t want a let-down in the second half and they didn’t get one. Kohler added a goal with 30:43 to play when he won a ball just past midfield, race past the back line, touched around Race and then slotted in from an angle.
Baxter set up the team’s fifth goal with a gorgeous cross off the left side to the far post that winger Aidan Jerome was able to pounce on and hammer home.
“We’ve been changing it around a little bit but (Baxter) is getting it,” Duddy said. “Whether he’s playing the No. 11 or the No. 10 spot, we flip him around a little bit with Luke and we’re doing alright with it.”
North Penn’s final tally came with 15 minutes left when reserve Matt Farrell, on his birthday, was able to turn and fire inside the box.
Duddy said he expects Souderton to be a factor in determining the Continental race and didn’t want to overstate his team’s performance. But it was a good start to an important week and both Houlihan and Baxter said they were looking forward to the challenge the rest of the week holds.
“It’s a big win for us,” Baxter said. “Our defense played well again and we’ll need them to keep doing that.”
North Penn 6, Souderton 0
North Penn 3 3 – 6
Souderton 0 0 – 0
Goals: NP – Nate Baxter (Mike Kohler) 13’, Jack Johnston 20’, Luke McMahon (Baxter) 22’, Kohler 50’, Aidan Jerome (Baxter) 57’, Matt Farrell 65’
Shots: NP – 9, S – 6. Saves: NP – Bobby Dean 2, Tyler Rothmann 4; S – Mitchell Race 3. Corners: NP – 7, S -3.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Noah Kwortnik heads the ball away in front of his own goal during their Knights’ game against Souderton on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)