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Souderton tops Cheltenham to keep District 1 playoff hopes alive

CHELTENHAM >> When the latest unofficial District 1-AAAA power rankings came out Monday, the Souderton boys soccer team sat 31st, put it outside of the 24 teams that make the playoff field.

That left the Indians with only option in the final week of the regular season – wins each of their last three games and see if that would be enough to get them in.

“The message that we relayed to the boys is understand where you’re at, understand what needs to be to be done to give yourself that opportunity,” Souderton coach Matt Benner said. “But it has to be every game and you have to check them off.”

The Indians checked off the first task Monday afternoon in their Suburban One League non-conference matchup with host Cheltenham. The Panthers put up a fight and tied the contest on a Max Lempart header in the first half, but the Indians retook the lead before halftime then added an insurance goal after the break to claim a 3-1 victory.

“We didn’t play our best ball, I don’t think. We tried to come out strong but then after the goal after we scored, we slowed down a little bit and took our foot of the pedal. And when we did that they scored,” Souderton’s Dylan Molyneaux said. “And Coach wasn’t happy about it, we weren’t happy about it. And then coming out of the second half, we just wanted to hammer the net as much as possible, which happened, I’m happy about it.”

Molyneaux had a hand in all three of the goals for the Indians (8-8-0, 3-7-0 SOL Continental). The senior headed in the opening tally off a corner, then found the head of Cameron Hart for the goal-ahead score. Molyneaux then made a strong run before connecting with Reece DiRenzi to make it 3-1.

“He’s fits the mold in what you want out of a senior,” said Benner of Molyneaux, who also hit the crossbar with a throw-in in the opening half. “He works hard every single time he steps out on that field. He’s physical, very pace-y, he gives up his body for his teammates and he’s had a fantastic senior year. I can’t speak highly enough of what Dylan’s done.

The loss was the second straight for Cheltenham (3-12-0, 3-9-0), which despite being out of the district playoff picture, held off Souderton’s constant attacks to stay within striking distance until DiRenzi’s goal.

“That’s been pretty much our M.O. all year. We don’t fold,” Panthers coach Chuck Gesing said. “I’ve been had that we’ve been scoring these last few games because we’ve went through quite a scoring drought. I’d just like to see us get up on somebody early, put one or two away and then make them chase. It’s always tough when you’re chasing.

“And they were good. They were a very technical team, big in the back, strong. We had a hard time getting around them and getting through them. And when we did, we got opportunities that we just didn’t convert that’s all.”

Souderton looks to keep its chances of the postseason alive Tuesday when Big Red hosts Central Bucks West in a SOL Continental game at 3:30 p.m. The Indians end their regular season with another conference contest – at William Tennent 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

“Our last game against West we lost 2-1 in double overtime to a penalty kick call that was called on me,” Molyneaux said. “And I took it straight to heart, I felt bad letting up that penalty call, but it didn’t look like it to me, refs saw it otherwise. I mean, we fought hard against them so we’re looking forward to a hard-fought game tomorrow.”

Cheltenham finishes its season with two SOL American games. The Panthers visit Plymouth Whitemarsh 7 p.m. Tuesday then host Hatboro-Horsham 7 p.m. Thursday.

Molyneaux gave Souderton the 1-0 in the first half when he headed in a Nick Marculo corner kick at the near post.

“Me and Nick, the guy that gave me the assist, we tried to run that play a lot and it hasn’t been on,” Molyneaux said. “For that, he saw the opportunity and I just put it in.”

Cheltenham’s equalizer came on a throw-in. After an initial header in the box, a second header by Lempart put the ball in the back of the Souderton net.

“That’s Max’s M.O., he’s a strong kid. He’s a kid who is not afraid to bang. He’ll stick you on tackles,” Gesing said. “There was a 50/50 ball in there and he got it before they did, that’s all.”

But Souderton grabbed the advantage back when Molyneaux – after his initial throw-in was cleared – sent a cross into a crowd in the box it found Hart’s head for a 2-1 lead.

“I was just trying to serve it, to be honest with you. Just want to see if we could get a header on it and we did,” Molyneaux said.

Cheltenham did create a couple chances to pull back level in the second half. Im Mainassara had rolled a long shot wide left while Colin Boyle’s try for the top left corner went high.

The Indians finally created some breathing room when Molyneaux worked past three Panthers defenders before sliding a cross to a charging DiRenzi at the opposite post. Cheltenham keeper Justin Grady denied DiRenzi’s initial shot, but standing at the goal line DiRenzi knocked the ball in with his second try.

“I beat one guy and then there was a game in between two others so I split them both and the goalie kind of slid across,” Molyneaux said. “And it was either I was going to shoot it but then I saw the run, I quick glanced and I picked my head up and I hit that cross on the ground which Coach wants us to do all the time.”

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