TOWAMENCIN >> It was a result that was long overdue for the North Penn boys soccer team.
It was evident in the way the Knights celebrated after the final whistle, a little more animated than usual. It was evident on the bench, the entire collective of coaches and reserves standing until the final seconds.
It took a special effort, but the Knights finally did it. They beat Central Bucks East.
A goal by senior Mike Kohler late in the first half sparked North Penn to a 2-0 win on a windy and wet Thursday afternoon. The victory snapped a seven-match losing streak to the Patriots and handed the Knights their first win over their SOL Continental nemesis since Sept. 16, 2013.
“It feels real good,” Kohler said. “East is a real big test on our schedule. I’m just so happy. I give them a lot of credit, they’re a really good program, they’ve had our number for a while so it just feels really good to get a win.”
CB East took the team’s first meeting 1-0 in the first full week of the season, sort of mirroring Thursday. A first half goal propelled the Patriots over the Knights, extending East’s dominance in the matchup despite bringing a vastly different looking team than in years past into the contest.
Weather was certainly a factor on Thursday, with the wind playing with balls in the air and a wet turf making any shot on goal a potential game-changer. Even with the conditions, the ball spent a lot of time in the air, playing right into North Penn’s (8-2, 6-1 SOL Continental) hands, or more accurately, heads.
A strong aerial team all season, the Knights asserted their will on any ball in the air, winning a majority of headers.
“Even after last year going 26-0 then losing all those seniors they came back and are just as strong,” North Penn senior Nick Terchek said. “That’s where the key to the win for us was. Once we were winning those 50/50 balls in the air, they weren’t getting much push forward and every time they tried to clear it out, we won the 50/50 ball and were going right back down at them.”
The first half was a lot of ping-ponging as both sides made a push, maybe got a shot or two then went on the defensive. East’s (6-2-2, 5-1-1) Tomasz Ognowski had an alluring chance midway through the first half but his effort sailed wide.
With 16:20 left in the half, North Penn left back Christian Snyder went down with a leg injury that forced him off the pitch and onto the bench for the rest of the contest. Terchek stepped up to fill the void, dropping out of the midfield and to the back line while Kevin Seipt and Brett Katz manned the middle.
Terchek was big all match, winning headers but also astutely playing the ball out of the back to just the right spots.
“We couldn’t get beat behind us,” Terchek said. “I’ve played outside back in club so I’m used to the position. Our big focus was to win the headers and not get beat behind us because breakaways are where they’re going to score. If we kept the ball in front of us and them in front of us, they weren’t scoring.”
North Penn didn’t have a ton of chances in the first half, but it had the first one that mattered. A defender’s clear didn’t get very far, with Kohler jumping on it and dribbling through three defenders, getting a little bit of a fortunate bounce off one’s leg then got a sliding toe-poke to go in with 1:58 left in the half.
Kohler credited the effort to a very simple pregame drill that focuses on technical work, a favorite of coach Paul Duddy.
BOYS SOCCER 1:58 1st half: North Penn 1, CB East
Mike Kohler, well, he did this pic.twitter.com/02x3Kixrb6
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) September 29, 2016
“The ball came to my feet, I saw a seam and I tried to get through it as quick as I could,” Kohler said. “I was lucky, I got around a couple guys. In these conditions, any shot is a tough save so I just tried to keep it on frame and it went my way.”
The goal was massive for North Penn. Not only did the Knights take a lead into the half, they doubled it up midway through the second when Luke McMahon volleyed home a shot with 21:31 left.
Luck did seem to be on North Penn’s side Thursday. Not only did the ball deflect right to Kohler, but CB East rung the post on a second half free kick, Ross Burton, after being denied once by Bobby Dean, skied his rebound over the net and North Penn blocked another rebound late in the game.
“(East) is still a very good team, today just worked out to be our day,” Duddy said. “I thought a number of our players just stepped up. They shut us out up at their place and are great defensively, on Mike Kohler’s goal there’s probably a little bit of a break but he’s so good, he figures it out.”
“We made too many mistakes defensively,” East coach Jeremiah White said. “We had too many lapses. We had to find the right combination, the second half we had opportunities, they just didn’t go in.”
Terchek noted the opening goal also brought East out of its compacted defensive shape as the Patriots tried to chase an equalizer. That eventually led to McMahon putting one home before he too left with an ankle injury and had Mike Farrell and Andres Maldonado step in to cover for him up top.
History bears that this was likely not the last time these two teams will meet this season and Duddy said he wouldn’t be shocked at all if there’s a district playoff rematch. The win puts North Penn in the lead for the SOL Continental title, but they had some tight matches the first time through.
But, getting the win Thursday was huge and the players aren’t willing to let it be wasted by letting the result go to their heads.
“Before every game in the future, we’re going to think back to this game and the hard work we put in preparing,” Kohler said. “We finally executed, we finally got a win, with this under our belt, we’re going to come in with some fire. We can’t slip up anymore, we have a tough schedule but we’re ready to go.”
North Penn 2, Central Bucks East 0
Central Bucks East 0 0 — 0
North Penn 1 1 — 2
Goals: NP-Mike Kohler 38’, Luke McMahon 58’.
Shots: CBE-6, NP-5.
Saves: CBE-Karl Bandlow 3, NP-Bobby Dean 6.
Top Photo: North Penn’s Mike Kohler celebrates his score against Central Bucks East during their game on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)