Allentown >> Walking off the rain-covered field at J. Birney Crum Stadium following Kennett’s 3-1 loss to Parkland in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A state tournament Tuesday evening, Blue Demon head coach Mike Barr reflected on his team’s first ever PIAA tourney contest.
“I thought our intensity and focus was weak tonight, but other than that, I’m really pleased with our season,” said the fourth-year Kennett head coach and member of the Delco Athletic Hall of Fame. “[I told our players] that these are lessons soccer-wise that you have to realize, that you have to step up each and every match, and stay focused.”
Following an arduous 2 ½-hour bus trip through heavy rain and traffic, Kennett (17-7), the third-place finisher in District 1, was facing a Parkland team coming off a District 11 championship and making a very short journey to the mammoth 15,000-seat stadium in downtown Allentown.
But despite the rain and 37 degree temperatures, Kennett started off the match red-hot, scoring just 4:13 into the contest on a header by senior forward Nick Brison to take a 1-0 lead, delighting the vocal Blue Demon fans in attendance.
Brison was assisted by senior co-captain and midfielder James Tuley, who said, “It was really exciting to get that early lead. When I set up the kick, I saw the gap in the center and I tried to put it high, gave it to Nick, and Nick put it back into the net. It was a really cool experience, to get the first goal in Kennett’s first state playoff game.”
Unfortunately, five minutes later Parkland senior forward Joshua Kiser scored the first of two goals to tie the score at 1-1 and take away Kennett’s lead for good.
“I wanted to score the first goal, to get us some momentum,” said Brison. “But then when [Parkland] got their first goal, we kind of put our heads down, we kind of lost it.”
Parkland made several runs at the goal midway through the first half, then broke through with two goals in a five-minute period to take a 3-1 halftime lead. Kiser’s second goal of the night with 8:06 before halftime made it 2-1; then with 3:12 left in the first half, Parkland senior midfielder Owen Iacobelli scored in a crowd in front of the goal.
“Nick made a great head [to put us up 1-0], but we didn’t maintain the intensity, which is kind of a shame because these kids are better [than this],” Barr said. “But Parkland was a better team tonight, so they deserved to win.”
In the second half, Parkland continued to make several runs at the goal, but some nice work in the net by Kennett senior goalkeeper and co-captain Moises Almanza Romero kept the District 11 champions off the scoreboard for the rest of the night.
Parkland now will face District 1 champion and defending PIAA champ Conestoga (22-0-1) in the second round Saturday at a time and place to be determined. The Pioneers defeated District 3 third-place finisher Ephrata, 2-1, Tuesday, in their opener.
“After a long [bus] ride here and a long season, I think we came a long way [this season], and I think we’re just happy to be here,” said Tuley while walking to the Kennett team bus. “We learned that if we work really hard we can get this far. We wanted to go further, but it was just an unlucky night for us tonight. After a great run in districts, placing third, we’re just really happy to be here.”
Parkland 3, Kennett 1
Kennett 1 0 – 1
Parkland 3 0 – 3
Kennett goals: Brison.
Parkland goals: Kiser 2, Iacobelli.
Goalie saves: Almanza Romero (KE) 7, Varrato (PA) 3.
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