TOWAMENCIN >> Getting some extra padding around his injured leg in the minutes leading up to game time, Austin Kratz was intent on taking the field for Dock Mennonite Academy in Wednesday evening’s District 1-A quarterfinal clash with rival Delco Christian.
“I was looking at the fans, I was looking at my teammates,” he said. “They were asking me, ‘are you playing? Are you playing?’
“I told our athletic trainer ‘I feel good. I think I can go.’”
Injured since last Tuesday, when he got hit hard in the lower leg, Kratz returned for the Pioneers and scored the game-winning goal with six minutes and 36 seconds left to play, lifting second-seeded Dock to a 1-0 victory over No. 7 Delco.
The victory advances the Pioneers to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will host the winner of the Plumstead Christian-Devon Prep match-up.
After the two teams battled to a 0-0 tie through nearly 74 minutes of play, Dock was awarded a free kick on Delco’s end of the field.
“They wanted me to take the kick and I said ‘just go for the cross’ because of how far out it was,” Kratz said. “I went near post and the kick went back post, and Kyle (Wells) shot it and it deflected off the (goalie Brody Veleber’s) hands and the ball was just sitting right in front of the goal and all I had to do was dive at it.”
The Pioneers held on from there, pushing past their rival.
“The boys that were out on the field as well as the boys that didn’t get an opportunity to play tonight — it’s important that they step in when they’re asked to,” Matt Moyer said. “I tell the boys ‘we win because we’re working hard at practice,’ and that’s from some of the J.V. guys that we bring up to the guys that get a lot of playing time.
“That’s so important for success.”
Many heroes emerged for Dock, including defender Brian Miller, whose sliding save right at the goal kept a shot by Delco’s Daniel Nichols from making it a 1-0 Knights lead with 22 minutes left.
“That one made my heart beat pretty fast,” said Delco coach Rob Atkins, who — along with just about everybody in attendance — thought Nichols’ shot was headed in until Miller swooped in. “I was jumping on the sideline, thinking it was going in.
“We were sharp, focused, and had just come off of a really good win against Church Farm for our Homecoming Game, which just gave us good motivation. Dock is a phenomenal team and we knew there were quite a few forwards to watch out for. But we thought we could stick with them and we thought if we could stick with them long enough, we could sneak one in.”
Delco very nearly did, but it would be Kratz — a game-time decision — that would score the game winner.
“He’s really worked hard to get to that ball,” Moyer said, “and he was rewarded for that.”
With extra time looming, the Pioneers came through.
“I just didn’t want to go into overtime,” Kratz said. “I was so tired and I was like ‘I know we can get this, guys.’ Everyone just kept working so hard, everyone played so well this game.
“We had a lot of opportunities — I missed some, some other guys missed some, but we got it at the end and I’m just so happy for our team.”
Top Photo: Delco Christian’s Dante Felice battles Dock Mennonite’s Brian Miller for possession during their District 1-A quarterfinal on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)