DOWNINGTOWN >> It was an all-feet-on-deck kind of occasion.
After 79 deadlocked minutes and quality scoring chances flying every which way, it was going to take something extra to separate Bishop Shanahan and Phoenixville in their District 1 Class 3A boys soccer semifinal Tuesday night.
The extra came in the form of extra bodies as the Eagles sent everyone forward for a free kick at midfield with a minute left in regulation. Shanahan goalkeeper Austin Coron sent the ball into the sea of bodies in the penalty area – into the mixer if you will – and chaos ensued. Fortunately for Shanahan, Shimon Hilton was there to make a marvelous concoction.
The dangerous ball fell to Hilton who fired home the rebound of his own shot from close range to lift No. 2 Bishop Shanahan to a 2-1 final-minute victory over No. 3 Phoenixville to advance to the district final and clinch a place in the PIAA Class 3A Championships.
Bishop Shanahan (17-3) got its opening goal in the first half from senior Jake Frank, who was a threat throughout, on an assist from Aiden Bracken for a 1-0 lead.
Phoenixville (19-2-1) leveled early in the second half on a Danny Jackson tight-angle header from a looping Kyle Tucker cross to even it 1-1 with 37:26 remaining, which is how it would remain until the final minute.
That’s when Hilton found himself the beneficiary when the ball wasn’t headed clear by the Phoenixville defense.
“The ball went in from Austin (Coron) and I thought they fouled Jake but it came right down to me. I shot it and the keeper saved it, but it came right back and I just put it in,” Hilton said.
“We’re feeling great,” Frank said. “It’s all about family out there.”
Shanahan, which saw its season end last year in this round, has every reason to be feeling great after advancing to Thursday’s final – 7 p.m. at Methacton – where it will meet the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 1 Holy Ghost Prep and No. 5 Harriton.
“We’re used to (high stakes games), but everyone was really focused today,” Hilton said. “We knew what was on the line.”
Conversely, first-time Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Phoenixville saw its season come to a startlingly abrupt end.
“It’s an unfortunate way to lose but an incredible season for the guys. At the start of the season I don’t think anyone predicted us to be PAC champions or in the semifinals of districts so we have to keep our heads up and remember the history we made this season. It was an incredible season for all of us,” senior midfielder Kyle Tucker said.
The Phantoms dominated the first 15 minutes and came close on a Jackson flick header from a Tucker free kick and a near own goal for Shanahan after a Tucker restart.
But a defensive error in the back on a ball over the top gave Shanahan a scoring chance that was denied but the Eagles got their footing in the game thereafter.
Four minutes later, Frank rattled the left post on a centering pass from Connor Bailey and the Eagles were in business.
Five minutes later, Frank got his reward when Bracken made a great run and cross down the right side as the senior midfielder got an easy finish. It was nearly 2-0 with four until halftime when senior Harrison Coron’s cross found the head of center back Matthew Eaglehouse, but it was hit high.
Phoenixville came out strong early in the second half and got its goal less than four minutes in through Jackson from Tucker.
“Coming into halftime 1-nil down we weren’t satisfied. We came out with a fighting spirit and to get that goal early was great,” Tucker said. “I thought we had the better chances in the second half and we felt like we were the better team in the second half but in saying that both teams’ attack looked like it could score.”
The chances were even through the second half – the teams were level on shots on goal 5-5 and Shanahan led in goal attempts 13-11. The Phantoms came closest on a chip from Tucker through the defense but Jared Carboy’s shot missed left with 6:45 to play.
The game started to look like overtime was inevitable, until the questionable foul call on a 50-50 ball at midfield gave Shanahan a small chance that turned into huge results.
“This feels like deja vu,” Phoenixville coach Mike Cesarski said. “We lost in very similar fashion to Radnor last year in the playoffs. But there’s something to be said for causing commotion in the box at the end of a game. When a ball drops in the box, you’re going to get hurt.”
“We had some players that had very successful years and from the top of the roster to the bottom we had a really hard-working group of guys.”
Phoenixville graduates a sizable senior class that includes Tucker, Carboy, Jackson, Tyler Siefer, JT Stevens, Blake Ericksen, Sean O’Neill, Nick Sinapus, Yair Ibarra, Velkin Escobar and Alex Bowman.
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