PHILADELPHIA >> Cody Taylor wasn’t worried.
The Archbishop Wood junior forward knew his team was creating chances against Franklin Towne Charter, it was just a matter of finishing them. With the Vikings needing to win to extend their season, Taylor took matters onto his own foot.
Taylor notched three goals, all in the second half, as Wood topped the Warriors 3-0 to win their second straight District 12-3A championship Thursday at Northeast High School.
“We didn’t have a lot of shots in the first half, so we needed to come out stronger,” Taylor said. “We played more balls through and got more opportunities.”
With the win, Wood also qualified for the state tournament for the second straight season.
Franklin Towne, which lost in the Public League semifinals, played Wood tough all match, although once the Vikings scored the Warriors had to start stretching out their formation. Still, with a good goalkeeper in Josh Gilborges, FTC managed to play Wood to a stalemate at the break.
After dropping a Philadelphia Catholic League semifinal game to Roman Catholic last Wednesday, the Vikings had to wait more than a week to get back on the field. The time off helped though, as Wood was able to hit the training field and work on finding the final pass that eluded it against Roman.
Each day not in a match also served to get the Vikings more and more motivated.
“Our coach has given us support and we were all tuned in for it,” senior defender Shawn Clark said. “We came focused and ready for practice and gameday came and we knew we had to score. Having eight days off is a long time, especially when we’re used to two or three games in a week.”
Against Roman, Wood struggled to finish the final pass, which in turn led to a 1-0 loss. In the first half Thursday, the same problem seemed to return. Wood players were taking too many touches on the ball and in turn, letting Franklin Towne drop numbers defensively.
Facing an opponent wanting to play defensive, the best remedy is quick ball movement. Once Wood started doing that in the second half, the channels opened.
“We stayed our course,” Wood coach Hugh Kelly said. “We had too many touches in the first half. We were moving the ball well, but too many touches and the final pass wasn’t there. In the second half, we limited that. We’ve been working on it, we just weren’t able to connect against Roman. We’re a work in progress, we have to hustle and work hard as a unit.”
Wood’s breakthrough goal came on a solid combination between junior Christian Petro and Taylor. Petro, playing an attacking center mid, slipped a through ball up to Taylor who then put it past Gilborges with 34:16 left in the match.
Eight minutes later, the two combined again. This time, it was Petro showing the trademark Wood hustle to set up the goal. After Gilborges palmed away a shot, Petro chased down the ball on the endline and was able to cross it back into the box, where Taylor found it and buried the chance.
“We had to let it come to us, we were pushing too hard and had to relax and let things come to us,” Taylor said. “I just had to put it past him. He was coming out aggressively when I got the ball at the top of the 18 so I just had to slip it past him.”
A through ball led to Taylor’s third goal with 11:52 left, his second such goal of the game. This time it was reserve freshman Brandon Gyza slipping the well-weighted pass right into Taylor’s path.
“At the beginning of the season it was a little iffy where my teammates were going to get it to me, but now they know where I want it,” Taylor said.
Wood didn’t allow a shot on goal on Thursday.
“It’s fantastic to see the guys working so hard, it’s a pleasure to play with this group,” Clark said. “It started with the energy we had to bring to practice, it transitioned to the games. We knew we had a good amount of possession and when it came to the second half, we just had to finish.”
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 3, FRANLKIN TOWNE CHARTER 0
ARCHBISHOP WOOD 0 3 – 3
FRANKLIN TOWNE CHARTER 0 0 – 0
Goals: AW – Cody Taylor (Christian Petro), Taylor (Petro), Taylor (Brandon Gyza).
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