WARMINSTER – Facing state-ranked Father Judge Tuesday night (Oct. 4) at James Ramp Memorial Rec Center, visiting Archbishop Wood knew it had to come to the table with its A-game.
The Vikings did just that, going toe-to-toe for 40 minutes against the Crusaders. In the closing seconds of the first half however, Judge senior striker Sean McCormick took a feed from classmate Billy Checkovage and banged a go-ahead goal off the right side goalpost into the back of the net.
“That really gave us a boost,” said Judge senior Mike Powers. “It definitely gave us confidence going into the second half.”
For Wood, it was an unfortunate turn of events. However, Vikings senior captain Mike Smith didn’t see the last-minute goal as a game-changer.
“We had just as many chances as they did in the first half; they got (a goal) and we didn’t,” said Smith. “We knew going into the second half, we just had to put some of our chances away.”
Six minutes after the intermission, Wood did put a ball into the back of the net but not before the whistle so, essentially, the strike didn’t count.
Three minutes later, the Crusaders struck again and Judge went on to a 3-0 victory. For the Crusaders, the win pushed the Northeast Philly team to 6-1-1 in the Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) and keeps them hot on the trail of unbeaten LaSalle, which sits atop the PCL with a 6-0-1 mark.
“We’re coming together nicely,” added Powers, whose team suffered its only league loss of the season when it lost 2-1 Sept. 27 on the Explorers’ home pitch. “McCormick is playing good, we’re getting some chemistry and we’re playing together well.”
Meanwhile, the Vikings, who last captured a Catholic League crown in 2014, fall to 6-6 overall, 5-3 in the PCL.
After seeing Judge control the ball throughout the firts20 minutes of the contest, Wood turned the tide and seemed to be on the threshold of a first-goal strike. Awarded a free kick at the 30, Smith and defender Sean Clark combined to put significant pressure on the Crusader goal.
With 2:30 remaining in the first half, Clark’s shot from 12 yards out was the Vikings’ best chance to score in the first half. Alas, the ball went wide and the opportunity passed without a goal for the visitors.
After the break, starting AW goalkeeper Joe Cimino posted a miraculous save when he dove to his left and batted a shot by McCormick from harm’s way. Six minutes into the second half, a shot by Wood senior Jake Maier was batted away by Crusaders starting keeper T.J. Corcoran.
In the ensuing minutes, however, Judge took control.
With junior Marcello Ibarra going in on an uncontested breakaway, Cimino had little chance stopping the Crusader midfielder, who tallied an unassisted goal to put his team on top 2-0 in the 49th minute of play.
While Smith’s free kick from the 25 squirted through to Chris Baker, the Judge defenders clamped down and turned Baker’s ball back in the 51st minute.
Two minutes later on a set piece, the Crusaders were on the scoreboard again. This time, Judge senior Davis Habilaj connected on a header with a right side corner kick from classmate Nico Martinez.
Coming off of shutout wins over Conwell-Egan and Cardinal O’Hara, the loss certainly serves as a setback for Vikings. With 16 seniors, Wood is looking to make some noise in the postseason. Last year, the Vikes took an early exit in the PCL Tournament, falling 1-0 to LaSalle.
“We lost a lot of seniors after my sophomore year so last year was kind of a rebuilding year,” said Smith. “This year, I think we’re better than we were last year so this should be our year – before everyone graduates.”
Stepping up defensively this year for the Wood team are backfielders Sean Harney, John Nubbenmeyer, Sean Clark and John Miller. For 39 minutes in this one, the unit did a nice job keeping the Crusaders off the scoreboard.
That trend did not continue however in the final 41 minutes of the contest.
“They got some momentum going in the second half and they were able to get more shots,” said Smith.
“Unfortunately, they scored more than we did.”
With Archbishop Ryan looming Friday on the Raiders’ home field, Smith says, the Vikings will look to put the loss to Judge behind them.
“We played well against them so I don’t think it was as bad as the score (indicated),” said Smith.
“All we can do at this point is just learn from the mistakes and come ready to play on Friday.”
Meanwhile, Judge is looking to avenge last year’s loss to Roman Catholic in the PCL title game. The Crusaders battled the Cahillites in the championship to a scoreless tie before falling 4-2 in penalty kicks.
“We’re just looking forward to the playoffs, coming out and playing hard,” said Powers. “We have to make up for last year.”
Judge, which pushed its way to 8-3-1 overall with the win over Wood, is back in action Friday night, Oct. 7 at Bonner-Predergast then hosts Central High School Saturday, Oct. 8.
NOTES: Defending PCL champion Roman Catholic lost to Northeast High School in last year’s District 12 Championship so the PCL went unrepresented in the 2015 PIAA Tournament.
Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter
Father Judge 3, Archbishop Wood 0
(Oct. 4 at James Ramp Memorial Rec Ctr.)
FIRST-HALF GOALS: FJ — Sean McCormick, from Billy Checkovage, 40th minute; AW — none.
SECOND-HALF GOALS: FJ — Marcello Ibarra, unassisted, 49th minute, Davis Habikaj, from Nico Martinez, 53rd minute; AW — none.