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Pottsgrove, Upper Merion play to 1-1 draw

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> After 75 minutes of play, it seemed as though the Pottsgrove boys soccer team was on its way to another shutout loss, which would have been the Falcons’ sixth in the last seven games.

But after sophomore forward Ethan Pace made a run and found Kevin Michuki in front the net for the game-tying goal with just under five minutes left in regulation, the Falcons were able to buckle down, force overtime and eventually earn a 1-1 tie in their Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division matchup against Upper Merion on Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re learning, we’re a really young team and I’m trying to look at ‘Are we learning or not learning’ more than the wins and losses right now,” said Pottsgrove coach Jay Witkowski. “We played smart soccer at the end of that game.”

While Witkowski wouldn’t call the tie a win for the Falcons, he was happy with the result given the fact that his team had lost to this same Vikings squad 4-1 earlier in the year.

The Falcons’ record now stands at 2-3-1, while Upper Merion moves to 3-2-1 in PAC Frontier play.

Pottsgrove’s Charlie McAllister clears the ball away from Upper Merion’s Chris Kourtidis Wednesday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Throughout the first half, the Falcons seemed to have the upper-hand possessing the ball and were getting some quality shots on Vikings goaltender Dylan Castillo, but were unable to sneak any past the senior.

“I thought we had some good play early and some of the possessions we had were very good. We just couldn’t get good chances or shots,” said Witkowski.

Things heated up with two minutes remaining in the half when Pace shot a free kick just outside the box into the wall of Vikings defenders. Upper Merion was able to quickly counter, springing Sam Tepe who fired a shot off the crossbar as time expired ending the half with a 0-0 tie.

The second half started with some quick opportunities for Pace and the Falcons but Upper Merion would begin to establish possession and began creating some good chances.

The first goal of the game came around the midway point of the second half when the Falcons’ defense was caught sleeping on a corner.

Upper Merion’s Sam Tepe (43) watches his header go in for a goal in the second half Wednesday against Pottsgrove. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Justin Schloth took a short pass from the corner and centered the ball to Tepe who headed it in for the game’s opening goal.

The Vikings continued to control play until Pottsgrove changed up their defensive formation and began pushing forward.

“Second half they were getting opportunities until we dropped back and put two up top. It worked and we continued it into overtime,” said Witkowski.

The change certainly did work as Pace was able find Michuki for the equalizer, giving the Falcons a much-needed goal late.

“We got caught ball-watching which is what we do occasionally and left a guy open,” said Upper Merion head coach Thomas Dodds, who added that his team needs to be more consistent with possessions. “Can’t get caught ball-watching in the back third which is something we seem to do occasionally.”

In overtime, the Vikings got some early chances but Pottsgrove’s senior goalie Ryan Long was able to stand strong to up his tally to nine saves throughout the game.

Carlos Garcia was tasked with covering Pace for the Vikings and was praised by his coach. Castillo finished with seven saves including some big stops late in the game to preserve the tie.

“At the end of the day they wanted it more than us,” said Garcia.

NOTES >> The Falcons were successful on the defensive end in part to the efforts of Mike Sereny and Collin Deckert. The two were tasked with marking Upper Merion’s Trevor Looby, who struggled to get good chances at net all game … The Falcons travel to Pottstown to face the Trojans on October 2nd, while the Vikings face Plymouth-Whitemarsh on Friday.

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