Council Rock North junior Conor O’Donnell, 11, left, goes up for a header along with Emmaus senior Kacper Grycel (10) and junior Dakota Bauer (8) in 2-1 overtime win that favored the Indians Tuesday night, Nov. 8 at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)
ALLENTOWN – Facing District 11 champion Emmaus, Council Rock North senior Nikita Ilin didn’t see a lot of scoring chances. Frequently in Tuesday night’s PIAA Class 4A opener at J. Birney Crum Stadium, the Indians’ leading scorer was double-teamed.
Still, the North attacker had a hand in the winning strike in overtime, getting the ball over to classmate Grant Bonus, who made no mistake when he tucked the ball into the right side corner just 3:31 into the extra session.
“Sometimes, it’s good to be the most dangerous guy on the field,” stated Indians head coach Joe Stackhouse.
“Then, they collapse on you and it opens up space for everyone else. Because of that, we had a lot of time and space to play through the midfield for most of the game.”
The 2-1 triumph sends the Rock to a state quarterfinal matchup on Saturday and ends the Green Hornets’ campaign at 12-7-4.
The winning goal started in the midfield with CR North senior Ryan Pave taking a turnover on the right flank, and passing it through to Ilin, who flicked the ball onto the touch line for a waiting Bonus.
Defensively, the Rock (17-4-2) was solid across the back, thanks to the return of senior backfielder Eric Levine, who got the scoring started in the third minute of play. One of the two key men in the back along with classmate Noah Ehlin, Levine was missing with an ankle injury for the Indians’ last two District 1 playoff duels – both losses – against District 1 champion West Chester Henderson and third-place North Penn.
“You can see how much better – how much more successful – we were playing the ball across the back,” commented Stackhouse.
“The people we put in just weren’t used to that mix.
“Think about it in terms of hockey defensemen and their pairoffs – if you change the pairoff in hockey, a lot of times, it slows the whole process down.”
Additionally, Levine wasted little time getting involved in the offense. Pairing up with his backfield linemate, he headed a throw-in from Ehlin into the back of the net less than three minutes into the contest.
“I tried to judge the ball in the air and I saw it was going back post and I saw (the goalkeeper) shooting up a little bit on it,” said Levine.
“So I used a little bit of my form to gain some ground and I just put it in the back of the net.”
Of course, it all starts with the throw-in by Ehlin.
“They didn’t really know much about us, considering they don’t play us in the league,” said Ehlin.
“And the throw-in is a big part of our offense. Eric came off an ankle injury and luckily, we had him today.”
“He followed it up and that was huge for us. It definitely gave us momentum getting a goal that early in the game.”
The only goal of the game by Emmaus came in the middle of the second period, and was not without controversy. With the ball coming in from the left corner on the kick by Green Hornets junior midfielder Dakota Bauer, senior Noah Bacon was credited with the equalizer for Emmaus 11 minutes into the second half.
After the game, Ehlin still wasn’t sure how the corner kick by the Hornets reached the back of the net.
“I don’t know what happed,” said Ehlin. “We had marks and I turned around and the ball was in the net.”
Indians senior netminder Anthony Caruso can tell you.
“I went up for it and the guy hit me underneath – under my legs,” said Caruso. “I went up for it and tried to hit (the ball) but it hit off my hands and went in.”
Both before and after the game-tying goal credited to Bacon, Caruso did his best keeping the Hornets off the scoreboard. Less than two minutes into the contest, he snared a header by Emmaus sophomore Callen Reid that had the chance to put the Rock in a huge hole early on.
“He’s one of our senior goalies and he’s a huge part of our offense and defense,” said Ehlin. “He keeps us in check; without him, we wouldn’t be here, for sure.”
For CR North, it is their first state playoff win since 2006, when the Indians won states.
“Freshman year, we got this whole thing started,” said Ehlin. “We knew we wanted to make a big run senior year. We grew as a program and this is our year, I think.”
The win sends the Rock to a state quarterfinal matchup against District 3 runner-up Elizabethtown, a 2-1 winner over District 4 champ Williamsport. That duel is slated for Saturday at a time and place that is to be determined.
Council Rock North 2, Emmaus 1 (OT)
(Nov. 8 at J. Birney Crum Stadium)
CR NORTH 1 0 1 – 2
EMMAUS 0 1 0 – 0
FIRST-HALF GOALS: CRN — Eric Levine, from Noah Ehlin, 3rd minute; E — none.
SECOND-HALF GOALS: E — Noah Bacon, from Dakota Bauer, 51st minute; CRN — none.
OVERTIME GOALS: CRN — Grant Bonas, from Nikita Ilin, 84th minute; E — none.
SHOTS: CR North 13, Emmaus 9.
SAVES: CRN — Anthony Caruso 5; E — Dylan Sosnow 10.