SPRINGFIELD >> This year’s La Salle’s soccer team has the oldest and most successful combination in sports history going for it — talent, experience and a willingness to work.
All three were on display Tuesday afternoon at La Salle College High School as the Explorers stayed unbeaten in Philadelphia Catholic League play with a 2-1 win over Father Judge.
Zach Hogan and Chris Metzler scored minutes apart early in the second half, and the Explorers were able to hold off a late Crusaders charge to stay atop the PCL standings.
“When you have guys who have talent and who want to work hard, that makes it easy for me,” said Explorers head coach Tom McCaffery.
The Explorers held off some early energy from the perennial PCL title contenders, scored twice early in the second half, then managed to blunt the hard-charging Crusaders, who made it interesting down the stretch, scoring once and having several quality opportunities in the closing minutes.
The two sides played a largely uneventful first half, with the only quality chance resulting in Judge netminder TJ Corcoran diving to halt a close-in bid by La Salle’s Anthony Boyle about midway through the half.
But things turned quickly early in half number two as Spencer Patton crossed to James Hughes, whose shot was stymied by Corcoran.
The rebound, however, came right to Hogan, who chipped the rebound home.
“That was a quality shot by (Hughes),” Hogan said. “I was there for the tap-in.”
The dust barely settled when the Explorers were at it again, with Metzler guiding home a cross from Boyle, and the Explorers had just enough.
“(Patton) threw it down the sideline and crossed, and I was there for the finish,” Metzler said. “But even at that point I didn’t feel safe.
“All they needed was one goal to shift the momentum.”
Metzler’s concerns were realized when the Crusaders roared back, with Mike Powers launching a straight-away 20-footer that caromed off the crossbar.
And when Patrick Kiley got a rebound past La Salle goaltender Brett Werner in the final eight minutes, no one in Blue and Gold was feeling confident.
But the Explorers hung on, stifling Judge several times down the stretch.
“We have a lot of three-year varsity players here and I feel we’re the hardest-working team in the league,” Hogan said. “We want to stay where we are.
“We still have a lot of work to do and we can still get better. We have the potential to go all the way. I’m not saying that we are. But we have the potential.”
“When you have speed and great technical ability, you can win a lot of games,” McCaffrey said. “And when you’re able to beat a team that year after year finishes either first or second in the league, that’s big.
“But every game has to be big for us.”
Top Photo: La Salle’s Spencer Patton works to advance the ball past Father Judge’s Mike Powers during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)