GRATERFORD >> A No. 9 versus No. 8 playoff pairing effectively eliminates the possibility of the lower seed being psyched out by the higher seed.
Not that Todd Cliggett ever worries about that. It was certainly the case Thursday, when Cliggett and his Downingtown East team faced Perkiomen Valley in a 9-8 matchup from District 1’s Class AAA bracket.
“We can’t worry about who we’re playing,” Cliggett said minutes after his Cougars dispatched the Vikings, 8-4, at PV’s Thomas Keenan Stadium. “If you’re going to states, you have to go through everybody.”
East pretty much went through PV from the second quarter on. The ninth seed rode two three-goal runs to a victory that insures it another two games at a minimum … and one win closer to qualifying for the state tournament.
The biggest difference between East and PV in their bracket positioning was the Cougars had to play in the first round while the Vikings were one of the district’s eight AAA schools to get a first-round bye. That fact didn’t bother East (15-5), which scored a 9-8 overtime victory on Great Valley two days earlier.
“It’s good to keep playing, to not have any time off,” Cliggett said. “It kept us focused. We had a hard game against Great Valley, and we brought it tonight.”
Perk Valley (13-6), in turn, came into the district fray off a 2-3 run in previous games including a PAC semifinal letdown to Owen J. Roberts. It was able to keep even with East in the first quarter, but when the Cougars rang up three in little more than a four-minute span, the Vikes could draw only as close as one goal of their guests late in the third.
“We felt good coming in,” PV head coach Bryan Churchey said of his team’s season-ending game. “There were a couple things we did well, and a couple things we didn’t do well.”
The Vikings’ offense was distributed evenly, Connor Roop, Nick Marren, Matthew Dudley and Brian Fehr scoring in succession. Dudley had the assist on Roop’s goal while Shawn Coulter set him up for a straight-on shot.
But East boasted two-goal nights from Jack Mulcahy, Grant Peden and Colin Armbrust. Jason Reynolds and Brian Miller completed the scoring, with Mulcahy and Lauletta getting credit for assists.
“Downingtown had a good defensive plan,” Churchey said. “We adjusted to it, but we didn’t have as many opportunities as I would have liked us to.”
Mulcahy got East’s first multiple-goal run going at the 8:55 mark of the second, assisted by Lauletta. Arumbrust followed with an unassisted connection with 6:41 before halftime, and Pedan continued the roll at the 4:45 mark, set up by Mulcahy.
But the second run did more damage. After PV made it a one-goal (4-3) game late in the third, the Cougars responded with Miller’s unassisted tally inside the final minute. They then got goals from Mulcahy and Reynolds in a 10-second span, followed by Peden upping the lead to 8-3 with 4:53 left in the game.
“When they (PV) made it 4-3, and we got it up to 7-3 … that second run was bigger,” Cliggett said. “Our defense buckled down at that point. They brought it.”
Fehr’s score with 3:30 left stopped the East run. But that was how it ended.
“Toward the end, that (Cougar) run was the more critical,” Churchey said. “The momentum swung their way.”
It was the final game together for the nine seniors on PV’s roster. Coulter, Dudley and Marren, goalie Kevin Mo, David Nielsen and Sam Bonavita all saw time on field.
“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Churchey said. “There were more wins by this senior class than any others.”
NOTES >> Mo had five saves on the night while facing 30 East shots. PV’s shot total was 19. … The Cougars had a 24-11 advantage in ground balls, and their goalie, Nick Iacovino, made four saves. … Downingtown will now play the winner between the district’s top seed Avon Grove in Saturday’s quarterfinal round. Six teams from the district will advance to states. … PV and Downingtown East were in a rematch of last year’s district first-round pairing. The Vikings won that clash, 7-6.