FALLS TWP. – Pennsbury entered Tuesday’s home pairing against Council Rock North desperately needing a win against a quality opponent. Sure, the Falcons blanked Central League rival Strath Haven 2-0 over the weekend. But once unbeaten in the Suburban One National League Pennsbury had dropped three straight league pairings including duels with Abington, Neshaminy and Council Rock South.
Now, here they were facing CR North (13-2-2, 10-2:SONL), which had already claimed the National League crown with its recent win over Neshaminy and the Falcons loss in overtime to the Golden Hawks.
Up 2-0, Pennsbury (15-3, 8-3: SONL) got rattled when it felt a handball wasn’t called in the last minute of the first half. It didn’t matter. The goal by Indians midfielder Conor O’Donnell counted. So did an ensuing strike by North senior forward Nikita Ilin in the closing seconds of the first half.
Just like that – a 2-0 lead had evaporated, sending the sides to the half deadlocked at 2-apiece.
To the Falcons’ credit, they held the Indians scoreless in the second half then got the deciding strike with 1:03 remaining in overtime to top the Rock for the second time this season.
“This feels tremendous,” said junior midfielder Obi Onuoha. “The greatest feeling in the world.”
The winning strike came off the foot – or rather the heel – of Pennsbury sophomore Javier Sosa, who took sophomore Matt Tennant’s throw-in and top shelfed the ball over the head of Indians goalkeeper Anthony Caruso off of the crossbar and into the back of the net with the back of his foot.
“The goal of the year,” is the way Pennsbury senior Zach LoBasso put it. LoBasso should know – he leads the team with 13 goals on the season.
Maybe it was the best goal of the season but the Falcons don’t even get to the extra session without Onuoha, who tallied twice in the first half, his first goal coming 3-and-1/2 minutes into the game when he took a turnover he forced to the right of the Rock’s net and blasted the ball to the far left, putting Pennsbury on top 1-0.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, the Falcons pushed the score to 2-nil, with Onuoha deflecting a free kick from classmate Sam Beidler into the back of the net.
“We thought we were in complete control of the game, even though they scored two goals, we thought they were lucky,” said Onuoha.
“It was a hard-fought game but we thought we were in control the whole time.”
For its part, Council Rock might have to be forgiven. The Indians were coming off a battle against the defending state champion CB East the night before where no one scored for 100 minutes. Now, here they were deadlocked at 2-all until someone tallied in the 89th minute.
“Both teams were very tired,” said Onuoha. “It came down to who wanted it more.”
After allowing those two strikes by North in the last 90 seconds of the first half, Pennsbury did take control. Indeed, the Falcons kept the Indians entirely off the board after that and allowed Ilin – a dangerous striker for the visitors – but a single scoring chance in the second half.
“We came out in the second half and tried to stay in control of the ball – and try to score another one,” said Onuoha.
“Not as many scoring opportunities because we had to play a little more defensive – we didn’t want to get scored on in overtime. But we felt the goal coming the whole time.”
Maybe so, but it was Council Rock coming up with the first real scoring chance in the extra session with junior Jon Pugh putting a big boot on a free kick from the 50 that made its way to the Pennsbury goalmouth, was flicked around in front before Falcon keeper Nate Slotnick finally got a handle on it.
The next eight minutes took place between the 18s and not much happened until LoBasso tried to dribble the ball in from the right of the Rock net until he was ridden off by a defender.
Not before the ball was drilled out of bounds by the Indians, giving Pennsbury the corner throw-in it needed to win.
A sophomore, Sosa has played like an upperclassman all season, and this had to be his greatest moment in a Falcon uniform. Onuoha has known Sosa for years through both boys association with the FC Patriots Soccer Club.
“I’ve been playing club with him for so long I can’t even remember,” said Onuoha. “He’s always been very skillful, very calm with the ball. It’s a pleasure to play with him.”
While the Rock has the league crown sewn up, this win coupled together with Pennsbury’s earlier season triumph over the Indians will certainly boost the Falcons’ stock in the Power Points rankings.
Both squads have one game left with Pennsbury traveling to Truman on Thursday and CR North hosting William Tennent on Saturday. With District 1 seeding slated to be set on Sunday, the D1 4A Tournament is set to begin Tuesday Oct. 25.
With CR North, Pennsbury and Neshaminy all in the top five in area soccer rankings, all three SOL National foes are likely to have first-round byes in the tournament.
Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter
Pennsbury 3, Council Rock North 2
(Oct. 18 at Pennsbury)
PENNSBURY 2 0 1 – 3
CR NORTH 2 0 0 – 2
FIRST-HALF GOALS: P — Obi Onuoha, unassisted, 4th minute, Obi Onuoha, from Sam Beidler, 31st minute; CRN — Conor O’Donnell from Noah Ehlin, 39th minute, Nikita Ilin 40th minute.
SECOND- HALF GOALS — none.
OVERTIME GOALS: P — Javier Sosa, from Matt Tennant, 89th minute; CRN — none.