LONDON GROVE >> Avon Grove’s Jake Smith was not necessarily where he wanted to be, tied late in the game. But since he was there he figured he’d do the obvious: fix it.
Smith lifted from the ground and fired a shot from his left side, skipping the ball past Central Bucks East goalie, Liam Rosenthal, to give the Red Devils a 10-9 lead with 65 seconds remaining.
Top-seeded Avon Grove held on, at home, in the District 1 Class 3A semifinals, to get back to the district final for the second straight year.
The Red Devils (19-1) will face No. 3 Conestoga — which beat second-seeded Garnet Valley Tuesday — Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“We definitely didn’t want to be there, up 6-1 at one point,” Smith said. “It definitely wasn’t the position we wanted to be in, but I’m glad we came out on top.”
Avon Grove was in the midst of a 16-minute scoring drought as the No. 4 Patriots scored four straight from late in the third quarter to late in the fourth.
Smith took a pass from Nick Chastan and did the rest with a decisive shot to the goalie’s left.
“I love for the ball to be in my stick for the last possession,” Smith said. “We have six guys who all can score and I trust all my brothers to shoot the last shot. Any six of us could’ve shot that and put it in the back of the net.”
In the first quarter, CB East looked like a team that had just dealt with a near three-hour hike from Doylestown to West Grove in rush hour. Avon Grove capitalized, scoring two goals in a fifteen second span near the eight minute mark. Scooter Whiteside gave the Red Devils a 4-0 lead with 17 seconds left in the first.
Midway through the second, Avon Grove went up 6-1 before the Patriots finally found their groove. They scored three times in the final five minutes, including one with two ticks remaining in the half, to make it 6-4.
“That’s the thing about this sport, teams go on runs,” Avon Grove coach Eric Jackson said. “We just happened to make the last play.”
Two more goals from Whiteside and another from Doug Jones pushed Avon Grove’s margin back to four, but the pesky Patriots stormed back, netting the final two goals of the third and first two of the fourth to tie with 3:51 left in the contest.
“We gave Avon Grove a game and gave the fans everything they paid for,” CB East coach Bruce Garcia said. “Maybe on another day it could’ve been or might’ve been.”
Joey Borcky and Smith ended with two goals apiece, while Zach Augustine and Brendan Harman joined Jones as goal-scorers for Avon Grove.
Chastan led the Red Devils with three assists and Nathaniel Hammond won 14 of 22 faceoffs.
Despite the win, Jackson was hardly pleased with his team’s inability to put the Patriots away.
“Something we talked about was to be peaking at this time of year,” Jackson said. “But against the best teams, we gotta play better than we did.”
Avon Grove will face No. 3 Conestoga in an all-Chester County final, Thursday night, at a neutral field. The Red Devils lost to Upper Dublin in the final a year ago, and has worked all year for a shot at redemption.
“Last year after we lost the district championship, it hung with us all year,” Smith said. “I’m so proud we got back there this year and I think we have the team that can do it. We’re determined to get to the next level.”
Avon Grove 10, Central Bucks East 9
Central Bucks East 0 4 3 2 — 9
Avon Grove 4 2 3 1 — 10
CB East goals: Brown 2, Stout 2, Bullotta 2, Ott 2, Bracken.
Avon Grove goals: Whiteside 3, Borcky 2, Smith 2, Augustine, Harman, Jones.
Goalie saves: Rosenthal (CBE) 8, Malone (AG) 5.