SOUDERTON >> The goal is a clear-cut one for the Souderton boys’ soccer team.
The latest District I power rankings had Big Red slotted as the No. 29 team, with the top 24 teams making the playoff field. Souderton will need to pretty much win out, and likely get some help, if they want to slip into the field and take one of those final spots.
But it’s not impossible and the Indians took their first step Monday night, beating Pennridge 3-2 in double overtime.
“I told the boys before the game started tonight the points and the push for the playoffs is a big deal,” Souderton coach Matt Benner said. “But more than anything else, the culture our seniors have established and continued to push in the right direction as a group of men was the biggest thing for us tonight.”
Monday was also Souderton’s Senior Night and the fourth-year players were the guys who had a major impact on the game. Co-captain Nick Marculo scored the first two goals for Souderton, the second a professional-tier strike from 35 yards out that likely no keeper would have been able to save.
Late in the game, two other seniors combined through chaos to create the game winner. A corner kick into the box turned into pandemonium with the ball bouncing, soaring and flying all over until Dylan Molyneaux managed to find classmate and co-captain Cameron Hart, who knocked it in from point-blank range for the winner.
Souderton has seven seniors this year and their influence on the team has gone a long way to shaping its image.
“In this last year in general, they’ve shown the underclassmen what it means to be a professional,” Benner said. “I know they’re not professional players, but professional in how they conduct themselves, how they’re the first ones to training as a group, how they’re some of the last ones to leave, how they’re the first guys to step up when we need someone to do something for the team. They’re just the team.”
Every day, before leaving the locker room, the seniors gather the entire team and break their huddle with a shout of “Equipo,” which means team in Spanish, Benner added.
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for Souderton. District heavyweight North Penn awaits in a Thursday road game, followed by games with Cheltenham, CB West and William Tennent to close out the season next week. Again, Souderton will probably need to win every game it plays from here on out, and picking up a win over North Penn or CB West would be a massive boost in points.
Monday’s duel under the lights was yet another classic example of life in the SOL Continental. It saw two teams flying around the pitch, physical battles, a couple of great goals and no quit out of either side. Benner said it was the type of game that was going to come down to will and which side wanted it just that little bit more.
“We took some lumps last year and the close results like tonight in past years probably went against us,” Benner said. “It was us conceding the goal in overtime. Learning how to win and believing in each other was a big thing for us this year and we hope to keep it going.”
The measure of this senior class isn’t something that will end when they play their last game. They’ve instilled a work ethic and attitude in the program that Benner said will stand for years to come.
While their legacy will go on, they’re not ready to put an end to their careers. It’s a major challenge to get into the postseason but Benner is only asking one thing of his entire group.
“We just want them to be playing their best ball,” Benner said. “When the season comes to an end and the last playoff rankings come out, if we’re in then we would have achieved a big goal of ours. If we’re not, I just want to know we gave it everything we had and every single player and the staff together gave it everything.”
It seemed only fitting that the Rams were the opponent as just last year, they went on a late-season tear to slip into the district bracket.
That kind of a run seems out of the picture this year, with Pennridge sitting at No. 35 going into Monday’s game. However, the last week and a half of the season still presents chances for coach Pete Valimont and his group to close strong and set a foundation for next season.
Pennridge has six seniors but just three, keeper Josh Jarrett and midfielders Kenny Estep and Adam Rapsinski, started against Souderton. The Rams have 10 juniors and eight sophomores, plus a couple freshman including starter Dilan Natitus, on the varsity roster, so there’s a lot returning next season.
One of those young guys, sophomore Marco Grenda, scored both goals on Monday. His first tally was off a breakaway and saw Grenda put home a composed finish underneath a charging goalkeeper looking to rattle him.
The Continental is unforgiving, but the Rams have played tough all season. They’ve taken some bumps of their own, but playing the North Penns, CB Easts and CB Wests of the world has its way of paying off in the long term.