Downingtown – Before Bishop Shanahan’s game against West Chester Rustin Thursday evening, Eagles senior center back and co-captain John George had a motivational message for his teammates.
“I told them that this was our most important game of the season,” said George. “It’s our final game of the regular season, and we want to come into the [PIAA District One] playoffs hot.”
The host Eagles (11-7) jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead, and increased it to 4-0 early in the second half en route to a 4-2 win.
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“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Shanahan head coach Jim Kalavik, reflecting on the Eagles’ fast start. “We had to win today, we were playing for a lot. This win could put us in the No. 2 seed [in Class AAA District One playoffs].”
Just 3 1/2 minutes into the game, Shanahan junior Shimon Hilton punched in a goal, with an assist from junior Richard Zink at 36:30; then 10 minutes later Zink dished out another assist, this time on a goal by junior striker Jake Frank at 25:43.
With 2:50 left in the first half, Frank connected again, his 18th goal of the season, to give the hosts a 3-0 lead. Two minutes into the second half, George tallied at 38:04 to make it 4-0.
“We’ve been practicing our finishing, and it paid off tonight when we jumped ahead early,” said George.
Kalavik said, “We kept the ball on the ground tonight. We practice possession, try to stay away from the long ball, the kick-and-run style of play. [Junior attacking center mid] Harrison Coron controlled the middle tonight, Jake Frank had a good game, and [senior captains] John George and Spencer Bicking kept the guys focused.”
Just when it seemed that Shanahan had the game in hand, Rustin began to fire back. With 31:04 to play, Golden Knight senior Chris McMahon scored his 14th goal of the season (he also has eight assists on the campaign), then less than seven minutes later, Rustin sophomore Callum Gready scored from in front of the net to make it 4-2 with 24:49 to play. For the next few minutes, Rustin kept making aggressive runs at another score.
“I give credit to our boys in the second half – once we settled down [after halftime], we showed the type of team we are,” said Rustin head coach Ryan Castle. “We’ve been coming out slow in the first half of our away games this season, and tonight it was the same thing,”
George said, “Once the score became 4-2, I think our team woke up a second time. We had been playing a little too defensively, trying to kill the clock instead of possessing the ball in [Rustin’s] zone. So we made adjustments – our whole team began making more quick passes.”
Shanahan did not allow a goal for the remaining 24 minutes of the game, and the Golden Knights’ loss eliminated them from a possible first place finish in the Ches-Mont American Division. Rustin finished with a 6-6-1 league mark, behind Unionville and Kennett, who shared the division title at 7-4-2.
An encouraging note for Rustin Thursday night was the performance of their younger players in the second half, when the Golden Knights had just one senior on the field.
“We had an eye to the future in the second half,” said Castle. “We have eight juniors on this team – it’s been a learning year, and I think our future is [bright]. Two of our freshmen, John Park and Matthew Scoffone, had good games for us tonight, and our junior center back, Ian Sullivan, had a heck of a game.”
NOTES: Prior to the game, Shanahan junior Nicholas Krause, a varsity player for the Eagles, performed the National Anthem on his guitar for the fans, a pre-game performance he gives at other Shanahan boys’ soccer games as well. “He’s a phenomenal guitarist,” said Kalavik.