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Toomey saves the day for short-handed Radnor

RADNOR >> As the referees took roll call of the five penalty-kick shooters at midfield Thursday night, Ben Toomey and Mitchell Coll had a moment for chit-chat near the goal.

There was some small talk, a couple of “crazy game, huh?”s … and from Toomey, the admission that oh by the way, he’d be the fifth and final PK taker.

Then the Radnor goalie went out and made sure his boot wouldn’t be needed.

Post strikes by Phoenixville shooters bookended a sensational Toomey save in PKs, as No. 2 seed Radnor advanced, 3-0, after the teams’ District 1 Class 3A quarterfinal finished tied at 1 after extra time.

Toomey’s hero turn followed a miraculous finish with the host Raiders, down to 10 men for most of the second half, scoring with 12 seconds left in regulation, defender Phil Regan getting the final touch in a chaotic scramble.

After that goal pinballed across the line through a tangle of humanity, Toomey served as one of the leading voices in a regrouping huddle. The Raiders had battled for 28 minutes without the services of Jack Miller after two soft yellow cards summed to a red. But they weren’t home free yet.

“It was crazy, but we knew the game wasn’t over,” the senior goalkeeper said. “We knew we had to get it done. Down a man, down a goal, that was the most incredible moment of my life. But when I got back in the huddle, I was like, ‘it’s not over. That was incredible, but we need to keep fighting.’”

The win is the first for Radnor (11-7-1) in districts since 2008 and the first for coach Joe Caruolo in his fifth season at the helm. Radnor advances to take on No. 3 Bishop Shanahan next Wednesday for a berth in the PIAA Tournament. No. 7 Phoenixville (9-8-1) is eliminated.

Toomey finished the job in the shootout, which required just three rounds thanks to some ghastly Phantoms finishing. Taking a cue from practice technique, he had his back turned when his shooters delivered their attempts — perfect conversions by Andrew Boujoukos, Miles Maesaka and Bobby Kirsch — perhaps not conducive to scouting but effective in the superstition category.

In between, Toomey guessed correctly as Andre Souza blasted a shot off the post to Toomey’s right. The goalie then dove right to get both gloves to Greg Flamma’s attempt. And when Jared Carboy rattled the left upright, the celebration, part two, was on for the Raiders and the sizeable student contingent that braved downpour conditions for much of a chilly evening.

“We call him ‘Brick Wall Toomey,’ because he’s so reliable,” defender Cal Congleton said. “He’s the best keeper I’ve ever played with. We were confident he was going to save one, and we got lucky that they hit the post twice, and we won.”

A little luck asserted itself to Regan’s goal. The ball started on Toomey’s boot in the opposite box with 30 seconds to play. His punt, aided by the stiff wind at the Raiders’ back in the second half, covered most of the field, was flicked on once, then again by Jackson Birtwistle near the penalty spot. Some combination of a touch by a Phoenixville defender, a high bounce, a nick by Regan’s boot and not enough contact from Coll’s gloves shepherded the ball over the line with 12 seconds showing.

“I knew that was the last time I was going to get a chance to make a play in my (soccer) life,” Regan said. “And I just stuck my foot in there, fell on the ground and next thing I knew the ball’s in the goal. …

“It was just all heart and desire. That ball went in the goal because of heart and desire. There was no skill on that goal.”

The tally cancelled out a strike by Phil Meszaros in the 55th minute, a stellar finish from the top of the 18 set up by Flamma.

Seven minutes earlier, Flamma was on the receiving end of a Miller’s second bookable offense. The Radnor forward, like in his first yellow, won the ball but took out a piece of an opponent on the follow through. Both were borderline calls, particularly for a player carrying a yellow. But with the PIAA’s system of rotating referees and the moving target of what constitutes a caution, Miller didn’t benefit from a ref’s customary discretion.

“We kind of accepted that they had a higher chance of scoring a goal, and they ended up scoring,” Congleton said. “But we knew that we would have to work our butts off even harder as a defense.”

“We just had to keep up the energy that we had,” Meszaros said of the man-power adjustment. “We had a lot of energy, and once that happened, we had to take it home. It’s a heartbreaking defeat.”

The balance of play leveled out in extra-time, with both teams earning chances. Coll, who made seven saves, produced a fine diving save to tip a Maesaka shot over the bar, then got his fingertips to deny an own goal by Danny Jackson in the first session. Cal Hanson squandered a chance in the final minute of the first overtime, then Toomey dove to deny a Meszaros drive that skittered along the soggy turf.

Then Toomey got the final say, without even needing to line up his PK.

“I knew Ben was fully capable of making that save because he’s the best goalie I’ve ever seen in my life,” Regan said. “I was not shocked at all when he made that save. As soon as he made that save, I knew it was pretty much set in stone. We had that game.”

Also in the Class 3A tournament:

Holy Ghost Prep 3, Marple Newtown 1 >> Luke Ciavardelli opened the scoring with just under 22 minutes left to play, but the No. 9 seed Tigers’ upset bid was dashed when the top-seeded Firebirds scored the go-ahead goal just over a minute from time.

Pottsgrove 2, Interboro 0 >> Germann Larmond scored both goals for the No. 4 seed Falcons, as the No. 5 Bucs fought hard but couldn’t come through with a goal.

In the Class 4A tournament:

W.C. Henderson 5, Penn Wood 0 >> The No. 15 seed Patriots had no answers for the No. 2 Warriors, who got a pair of goals from Kevin Kieffer in the rout.



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