LANGHORNE – Battling PAC-10 rival Owen J. Roberts in a scoreless District 1 Class 4A second-round duel that almost surely looked like it would remain that way at the intermission, Neshaminy junior Jack McCourt went in on the Wildcats’ goal on a breakaway in the last 10 seconds of the period.
One of the leading scorers for the sixth-seeded Skins, McCourt drilled his shot, burying it in the back of the net with 8.6 seconds left in the first half. OJR sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Walker dove to his right and just missed making a key save. Had he done so, Neshaminy junior Chase Rider would have been right there with the rebound.
Rider did exactly that in the second half, following up a rebound of a shot by McCourt and burying his own shot to give the Skins a much-needed insurance goal in the 53rd minute of play.
“It’s a slippery field out here so rebounds can happen anytime,” said Rider. “That’s all we do – just following shots.”
The plays by Rider and McCourt ensured Neshaminy (14-5) a berth in a District 1 quarterfinal set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29 vs. No. 3 seed Council Rock North, a 3-2 winner over No. 14 Unionville. Whoever wins the quarterfinal earns a berth in states. The loser heads to a playback round.
For the Wildcats, the loss to the Skins ends their season at 11-7-3. Owen-Jay defeated No. 11 Hatboro-Horsham 4-1 to advance to the Round of 16 matchup at Neshaminy. OJR senior Brandon Ott tallied twice in the playoff opener with the Hatters while junior Austin Koury and sophomore Taurean Lee added a goal each.
While the Skins finished in third place in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference behind league champ CR North and second-place Pennsbury, Neshaminy might be the hottest team in the tournament.
A mid-season realignment – from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 – that gives the Skins an extra player up top, helped the team win nine of its last 11 in the regular season.
“We’ve had a lot of success with (the realignment), especially in the midfield,” stated Rider. “Dan (Grinrod) has been doing a great job in there for us. (Kevin) Sheenan and Vince (Hosephros) – Vince coming off the bench and giving us minutes in that spot – it’s been great.”
It was Hosephros who sent McCourt in all alone on the OJR goal in the last 10 seconds of the first half. At the time, the strike by McCourt was a game-changer.
“It just brings our confidence up and for them, it just makes them work harder in the second half,” explained Rider.
A steady drizzle turned into a steady downpour in the second half, though that didn’t dissuade the Skins from piling on.
“We wanted to keep pressing in the second half, especially when the rain picked up,” explained Rider. “It was even more slick for the defense so when we started pressing, they started to make more mistakes because of the wet field.
“That helped us out defensively because they kept turning the ball over to us from the press.”
Rider had another and maybe even two chances to score in the final four minutes, clanking one ball off the crossbar and another off the right side post on back-to-back volleys.
Keeping the foot on the gas was the plan in the second half, said Rider.
“We always want to keep pressing them because press means mistakes can happen at any time,” said Rider. “If we keep pressing and going to goal, mistakes can happen and we can keep scoring.”
As for Neshaminy’s next opponent in districts CR North, the Skins lost 3-1 to the Rock in September and also lost 1-0 on a penalty kick in a mid-October matchup that clinched the division crown for the Indians. Before North topped Unionville in districts and it was known who the Skins would face in the D-1 quarters, Chase welcomed the opportunity to face the Rock again.
“We play them twice a year so let’s make it a third,” said Rider. “We haven’t played our best game against them yet so they don’t know what they have coming to them.”
For Neshaminy, it is the first time it has advanced to the D-1 quarters since 2012. Last year, the Skins lost on penalty kicks to Lower Merion in a first-round district playoff, despite a 2-0 lead over the Aces with 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
Rock North advanced to the quarterfinal, despite facing a 2-1 second-half deficit in a second-round matchup vs. No. 14 seed Unionville Thursday night, Oct. 27 at Walt Snyder Stadium. Newtown’s Indians topped the Ches-Mont American Conference Champion from Kennett Square on second-period goals by senior Nick Guarna – who tallied on a penalty kick – and senior Dennis Karpovitch, who poked home a rebound of a shot by senior Tyler Becker for the game-winner. CR North senior Nikita Ilin also scored for the Rock while Mark Echevarria and Sam Price tallied for Unionville.
The season ends for the Ches-Mont American champs at 12-6-2. Unionville won a first-round District 1 matchup, beating Boyertown 1-0 on penalty kicks. Michael Hewes, Eric Greer and Kyle Garvey tallied PKs for the Indians and freshman goalkeeper Alex Dolce – in for backup keeper Garrett Pepper who was injured in the second half – helped preserve the shutout.
DISTRICT 1 CLASS AAAA BOYS SOCCER (second round)
Neshaminy 2, Owen J. Roberts 0
(Oct. 27 at Neshaminy)
OWEN J. ROBERTS 0 0 – 0
NESHAMINY 1 1 – 2
FIRST-HALF GOALS: N — Jack McCourt from Vince Hosephros, 40th minute; OJR — none.
SECOND-HALF GOALS: N — Chase Rider, unassisted, 53rd minute; OJR — none.
SHOTS: N — 13, OJR — 10.
SAVES: N — Val Scarsellatto 4; OJR — Ryan Walker 4.
RECORDS: Neshaminy (14-5); OJR (11-7-3).