PHILADELPHIA – After coming out to George J. Todt. Field Wednesday night (Sept. 28) to face Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) rival Archbishop Ryan, visiting Holy Ghost Prep was forced to go home with a 1-0 loss.
A scoreless game at the half turned into a 1-0 deficit with less than five minutes to go in regulation when AR junior George Montag sent a crossing pass high across the crease of the Firebirds’ net that was inadvertently headed by a defender into the back of the HGP net for an own-goal.
While the Raiders outshot Ghost 6-3 in the first half, onlookers are still waiting for a shot on frame by Ryan after the intermission. Nevertheless, the Raiders emerged with their ninth win of the season, against three losses.
You could almost forgive the Firebirds – who fell to 7-4 overall, 6-0 in the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) – for looking past this game. Holy Ghost travels to Macclesfield in Yardley on Saturday night to take on New Jersey soccer power Saint Benedict’s Prep, the No. 3 team in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings.
“If you can defend against them, you can make a run in districts and states,” said HGP Coach Davey Simpson. “We use that game as a measure to see how organized we can be.
“The league that we play – it’s tough. No one puts enough pressure on us.”
“The two years we went on to win states – that’s where we learned to defend – against Benedict’s.”
While the ‘birds failed to make any kind of postseason run a year ago, they captured the PIAA Class AA championship in 2014 and 2015. Not last year but the year before, St. Benedict’s boasted a player that later turned pro and at least seven that went Division 1, according to Simpson.
“No one’s got as many pieces as Benedict’s,” stated Simpson “If you can defend against them and be organized, then you can make a run at districts and states.
Holy Ghost did a nice enough job defending against Archbishop Ryan; the ‘birds just had a hard time generating any kind of offense, especially in the first half. Positioned in a 3-5-2 alignment, they did a better job of that in the second period, outshooting the Raiders 6-0 after the intermission.
“That opened up the wings more for us. We got the ball outside more,” explained HGP senior Luke McDonald. “Coach (Simpson) had us play to feet, instead of kick-and-run.”
Before the break, playing in a 4-5-1 alignment, Ghost was outshot 6-3 with Ryan getting most if not all of the most formidable scoring chances.
“I don’t think we came ready to play,” admitted McDonald. “We were doing our own thing; we weren’t playing together as a team.”
The ‘birds entered the non-league match coming off of shutout wins over Devon Prep (3-0) and DelCo Christian (4-0). Earlier in the season, Ghost came away with a hard-earned 1-0 win over New Hope and a 2-1 triumph over Christopher Dock.
“We obviously take our BAL games more seriously,” added McDonald. “I don’t think we took this game seriously but we definitely should have.
“Ryan always puts out a strong team and they showed that here tonight.”
Perhaps, the best chance the Raiders had to score in the first half came midway through the first period on a cross that senior Peter Comas got a head on. HGP goalkeeper Harry Scuron made the initial save but Montag booted the rebound well over the net.
Ryan missed another golden opportunity when Comas shot wide right of the net from six yards out with 15 minutes remaining in the half.
Eight minutes before the intermission, HGP junior Brendan Eagen and sophomore Ethan Ruppersberger combined on a rush to the Raiders’ net that saw AR goalkeeper Ryan Stock out of position to make a save. However, the Ryan defense clamped down hard enough that neither player could get off a shot.
On the opposite side of the field, HGP junior Connor Fife made a nice defensive play on Sean Palmer, heading a free kick by the AR senior out of harm’s way with two minutes left. The half ended with Nkosi making a last-ditch go to goal whereby the sophomore tried to sneak the ball into the short side. Stock made the save just as the whistle blew and Ruppersberger tumbled over the keeper.
You could say the second half was all Ghost with the Firebirds launching a half-dozen shots on frame except for the fact that the Raiders were credited with the game’s only goal with a little over 4:30 showing on the clock.
“We didn’t play exactly how we like to play – surround the box then get easy finishes,” explained McDonald. “We were just taking shots from outside on our own terms; that’s not what we want to do.”
It was Holy Ghost who was given the best chance to score all game 10 minutes into the second half when the ‘birds were awarded a penalty kick after a free kick inadvertently made contact with the left hand of Comas.
However, Stock came up huge for his team on the following play, diving to his right to keep the ball out of the elusive goal.
“I thought we had a great chance to score in the first minute of the second half, (we) don’t shoot and they took over,” said AR first-year head coach Ryan Haney. “Things started going wrong. They started getting chances, a PK, two yellow cards.
“Things were falling apart when our goalie comes up with a huge save and that really fired up our guys.”
The battle could have gone either way, added Haney.
“If you played this game 10 times it could be one-nothing us five times and one-nothing them five times.”
Non-league or not, all the games matter, said McDonald.
“Every game matters, even if we lose,” said McDonald. “We always want to build off of losses.
“But I don’t think we could build that much from this game.”
“Next time should be better,” added Scuron.
“We will be better – that’s guaranteed.”
Saturday night at Macclesfield, we shall see.
Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter
Archbishop Ryan 1, Holy Ghost Prep 0
(Sept. 28 at Archbishop Ryan)
ARCHBISHOP RYAN 0 1 – 1
HOLY GHOST PREP 0 0 – 0
SECOND-HALF GOALS: AR — own-goal; HGP — none.
SHOTS: AR — 6; HGP — 9.
SAVES: AR — 12; HGP — 7.