NEWTOWN – Despite making it into the District 1-AAA final last year, Holy Ghost Prep came into the current campaign with a couple of question marks.
With the graduation of 2017, netminder Harry Scuron, one of them was between the pipes. The Firebirds didn’t have a goalkeeper coming up through the program ranks, either.
Enter sophomore T.J. Butler, a Lighthouse Soccer player who won the starting goalkeeper’s job in the preseason. Yesterday at Council Rock North, Butler notched his fourth shutout of the season and his first facing a Class 6A opponent when he helped Holy Ghost to its 10th win of the season, helping the ‘birds remain unbeaten. He turned away every shot the Indians could muster, helping the lone goal by classmate Tyler Weimert stand in the 77th minute.
“We had on goalie and he came into the tryouts and won the job,” said eighth-year Holy Ghost head coach Kenny Lawson.
He won the job and he’s done real well for us.
“He had a great game today.”
While Weimert was not a starter in the beginning of the season, he is now.
“He’s done real well and he’s worked hard,” said Lawson, of Weimert. “He’s earned it.”
While the Indians are unbeaten in the Suburban One National League (SONL), sitting atop the division at 6-0, the Rock has had a tough time facing non-league rivals. North has now lost inter-league battles with Catholic League rival Archbishop Wood, Central League’s Harriton, SOL Continental Conference rival CB East and now, Holy Ghost.
“It’s good for us to get this kind of experience against a good team like North,” said Lawson. “It will bode well for us in the playoffs.”
The coach says this is the first time in a decade that the schools have faced one another.
“A lot of our guys live up here and they all know one another so this is a good neighborhood rivalry for us.”
A Class 3A rival who last won a District 1 championship in 2014 and made it to the finals last year, the ‘birds will get a big boost in the power points rankings from its win over the Indians.
“We were sitting on top in three-A and this will help us stay up there,” said Lawson.
Holy Ghost has captured the last seven Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) titles and nine of the last 10.
“Lower Moreland, New Hope and Devon (Prep) are the competition in our division,” said Lawson. “We’ve played them all once and we’ve done well but now, we have to go to their fields. It will be harder to win there.”
Additional youngsters stepping up for the first time on varsity are sophomore midfielders Stefan Melekos and Max Guiliana along with freshman Zach Simcsak.
“We have a lot of young guys but we have a real good mix,” said Lawson. We have a strong junior/senior leadership class and these young guys are coming in and learning from them
“We think we have a team that can make a nice long run this year. But everything’s got to go right for that to happen.”
Last year in districts, the top-seeded ‘birds defeated 9th-seeded Marple-Newtown, 3-1 and No. 4 Pottsgrove, 2-1 only to fall 2-1 in overtime to 2nd-seeded Radnor. With Holy Ghost leading 1-0 midway through the second half, the Red Raiders pushed the ball deep into the 18-yard box where Radnor’s Phillip Regan collided with Scuron.
The keeper lost his footing and Regan booted the ball into the back of the net for the equalizer.
With two minutes and four seconds remaining in overtime, Andrew Boujoukos scored the game-winner for the Raiders to help Radnor claim its first District 1 title since 2004.
TOP PHOTO: Holy Ghost Prep senior Alex Finney , right, in an inter-league battle at Catholic League rival Archbishop Ryan last season in Northeast Philadelphia. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)