LANGHORNE – Facing No. 7 seed Lower Merion in a District 1 Class 4A consolation matchup Wednesday night (Nov. 2) at Harry Franks Stadium, Neshaminy got the ball headed downhill early with junior Vince Hosephros taking a nifty pass from senior Dan Grinrod and putting it into the back of the net just three minutes into the contest.
Midway through the first half, Hosephros fed classmate Jack McCourt on goal number two, giving the sixth-seeded Skins an early 2-0 lead on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Aces.
“We stuck together as a team. We played strong and we never quit,” said junior Matt Leonhaouser, who registered goal number three in the waning minutes of the battle. “We played with energy and we didn’t want them winning on our home turf.
“We took a solid win here tonight against a great team.”
Neshaminy advances to host No. 8 CB East for the fifth and final berth in states on Saturday back at Heartbreak Ridge. Lower Merion’s season ends at 15-4-2. The Patriots advanced with a 2-0 triumph over No. 4 seed Pennsbury.
CB East is coming off a state championship in 2015 but the Pats lost a host of pieces from last year including former skipper Mike Gorni, who retired after leading the team to an unbeaten season.
Still, Skins head coach Tom Foley likes his team’s chances against CB East.
“We have three guys up top that are just a handful,” said Foley. “And with Dan (Grinrod) playing behind them, that’s four guys who can score.”
Neshaminy was certainly having its way with Lower Merion in this one. That is until some controversy erupted with two minutes remaining in the first half on a free kick for the Aces. Lined up for the kick just outside the 18 was LM sophomore Tim O’Hare, who booted the ball into the right side of the Skins’ net for an apparent goal.
The strike was waved off however, with game officials saying an Aces player asked for 10 yards and the referee was counting off the distance off when Holtzman kicked the ball into the back of the net. With time winding down under 20 seconds, LM senior Ryan Tillman rushed the ensuing set piece and banged it off a Neshaminy defender.
Five minutes into the second half, the Skins were called for taking down O’Hare in the far right-hand corner of the box. LM senior David Novacich made good on the penalty kick, turning what looked like it might be a runaway for Neshaminy into a horse race.
Ignited by the sudden turn of events, the Aces launched a couple of balls at the Skins’ net. In particular was a wicked shot by LM senior Alex Moureaud that Neshaminy senior goalkeeper Val Scarsellatto laid out for, making a spectacular save to keep the ball out of the net.
With 17 minutes remaining, Scarsellatto made a solid save on a shot by O’Hare from the top of the box. Indeed, it was O’Hare putting all the pressure on the Skins’ net even before Lower Merion’s goal. Scarsellatto was up to task then too, launching his body almost completely horizontal in keeping the ball out of the cage.
“He saved the game a couple of times tonight,” stated Leonhaouser. “When our defense was in trouble, he made some really great saves.
“He played a great game tonight.”
“They started pressuring us in the second half but I thought we handled it, for the most part,” added Foley. “We only let them get to maybe the 20 (yard line) before we got it going the other way but when we needed Val, he came up and made some big saves for us.”
To their credit, the Skins tilted the field in the other direction in the final stages of the contest.
“We came out in the second half a little bit flat but then we started getting our feet back under us,” said Foley.
Helping Neshaminy regain its footing was senior backfielder Jon Albarran. Withheld from the starting lineup in this one due to an illness in the two days prior to the matchup, the Skins defender has been gradually making his way back onto the field. He certainly helped Neshaminy put this one away, especially in the latter stages of the second half.
“John is a senior hard-nosed kid who works hard for us,” stated Foley. “We were struggling a little bit on that side and he kind of settled things down in the back a little bit.
“He came in and did a nice job for us in the last 20.”
For the most part, the Skins kept the ball in the Aces end in that final 20. And that’s a good thing, especially when you are trying to hang on to a one-goal lead.
Finally, with two minutes remaining, Grinrod drew a foul and earned a corner kick. Getting on the other end of that kick was Leonhaouser, who headed the ball into the back of the net for some much-needed breathing room.
Ironically, Neshaminy was thinking of moving a man back on defense in the second half but decided to keep the pressure on the opponent, instead.
“We were toying with the idea of whether we wanted to play with an extra guy back,” said Foley. “But we were starting to get pressure on them so we might as well try to get that third goal.”
If the Skins are smart, they’ll keep the pressure up on Saturday at home against CB East.
A win there and Neshaminy advances to states. A loss, however, would spell the end of their season.
Neshaminy 3, Lower Merion 1
(Nov. 2 at Neshaminy)
NESHAMINY 2 1 – 3
LOWER MERION 0 1 – 1
First-Half Goals: N – Vince Hosephros, from Dan Grinrod, fourth minute, Jack McCourt, from Hosephros, 21st minute; LM – none.
Second-Half Goals: LM – David Novacich (penalty kick); N – Matt Leonhaouser, from Grinrod.