BENSALEM >> Momentum meant nothing.
Holy Ghost Prep must have felt hard done to have come up empty over the first 30 minutes of Wednesday’s District 1-AAA boys soccer semifinal against Pottsgrove.
The Firebirds got their reward in the second half, just in time for the Falcons to grab control and ultimately force overtime.
Instead of a reward for their stretch of dominance, all Pottsgrove got was emptiness.
An overtime that was one-way traffic in favor of the Falcons was turned upside-down on the first time the Firebirds entered into the Pottsgrove half when a cross from the right ran through to free Brendan Eagen and the junior drilled his effort to lift No. 1 seed Holy Ghost Prep over No. 4 Pottsgrove, 2-1, to advance to the District 1-AAA final and clinch a return to the PIAA Championships.
Despite dominating most of the second half – Tyler Rolando equalized from a Will Kaiser corner kick with 9:41 in regulation to cancel out George Barbe’s sharp cross that forced a Pottsgrove own goal early in the second half – and pinning back HGP in overtime, Pottsgrove’s season is done.
It’s a reversal of fortunes after the Falcons knocked out HGP in the semifinals last year and went on to win the 1-AA title and reach states.
That history didn’t drive Holy Ghost Wednesday. But it didn’t hurt the satisfaction of moving on to face Radnor (a 1-0 overtime winner over Bishop Shanahan) in Saturday’s final.
“Our goal wasn’t to beat Pottsgrove; we’re looking for that district final and states and they were just the team in the way,” HGP keeper Harry Scuron said. “I think we’re going to be hard to be stopped. We showed a lot of heart.”
Having felt the championship feeling in 2015, the premature exit will crush the senior-centric Falcons (15-6-1), led by Rolando, Kaiser, goalkeeper Liam Abdalla, forwards Germann Larmond and Nate Yuchimiuk and defenders Jared Krieger and Nik Curnew.
“It’s hard. They worked hard together,” Pottsgrove coach Jay Witkowski said. “The expectations were higher than we achieved this year. We come away with no championships this year which is disappointing. This is a team that should have won a championship.”
The Falcons will feel the sting even more with at least three penalty kick decisions that didn’t go their way. Larmond was taken down in the box but not given a penalty in the lead-up to Rolando’s score.
He was also cleaned out in the final seconds of regulation by HGP’s last defender, but the clock ran out and the Falcons never got a free kick away.
Larmond then had the trifecta when referees ignored a clear penalty on the right edge of the box that left the threatening forward out with a knee injury eight minutes into the 15-minute first overtime.
Unreal no penalty on Larmond! 8 into OT. Refs are just unwilling to call one. It was clear pic.twitter.com/S7fMTNE9P7
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) November 2, 2016
Five minutes later, Nkosi Graham, a bright spot in the attacking third for HGP all day, got an outlet down the right side and played across for Eagen for the game-winner.
Witkowski wasn’t ruing the final sequence postgame, he was left regretting his team being in overtime in the first place.
“You put yourself in a bad spot, you’ve got to deal with it. We put ourselves there by not playing our game,” Witkowski said. “First half was awful, second half we do a little better then overtime we dominate. The guys in the back did a good job denying them chances but we didn’t play well enough early and it came back to haunt us. Our season’s over.”
Holy Ghost Prep’s isn’t. The Firebirds are back in the PIAA Championships, which they were AA champions of in 2013 and 2014.
Now they have a resilient performance when they needed it most in their pocket.
“It was tough. It was a good game, it took a lot but we’ll need that in states and the district final. Our team has a lot of (resiliency),” Scuron said.
NOTES >> Scuron made six saves to two for Abdalla … Pottgrove led in shots on goal 7-3 and the teams were even in corners 7-7.