Rosemont >> There are times when the value of senior leadership is sometimes understated. With this year’s Harriton High School boys’ soccer team, senior leadership defined the Rams’ success this season.
With a senior-laden lineup, the players had one goal on their mind – ‘state playoffs or bust.’ In their minds, anything less would mean a very disappointing season.
Harriton traveled to the top seeded Holy Ghost Prep and handed the Firebirds a 3-2 defeat, which not only punched their ticket to the PIAA District One 3A championship match, it also clinched a berth in the PIAA state tournament for the first time since 2006.
“We had a goal of states or bust,” said junior co-captain Alex Kades the day before the district championship game against Bishop Shanahan at Harriton. “We all thought anything less would be a disappointing season. When things got tough the camaraderie of this group showed and our senior leadership paid off.”
“To clinch a berth in the state tournament felt great,” said senior co-captain Ethan Rodgers the day before the district final. “We have made the district playoffs each year. Last year we came close [to making state playoffs] but in previous years we did not come close. To see us go to the state tournament makes me proud and happy. This is a good thing to see.”
On Nov. 2, No. 5 seed Harriton battled No. 2 seed Bishop Shanahan for 85 minutes. before falling 3-2 to the Eagles. Harriton had the lead with 50 seconds left in regulation when the referee awarded Bishop Shanahan a penalty kick. Shanahan made the PK to force overtime where Harriton eventually fell. Nobody from Harriton knows what the call was for or who committed the foul that the referee called.
The Rams season continued Tuesday evening in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3A state playoffs against District 3 champion Lower Dauphin. Although the Rams lost 4-1 in the state opener, it was a memorable season (and post-season) for Harriton.
The day before the district final, Rodgers said, “We have a senior-laden team, and going into the post-season we knew this could be everyone’s last game and we did not want our season to end.”
The path to qualifying for the state tournament was not an easy road for Harriton, who spent the entire post-season on the road. The Rams started the tournament fending off a tough Radnor squad 1-0 in double overtime when Alex Kades converted a prefect feed from senior Serhat Sakarcan.
“The win over a talented team like Radnor really showed us what we can do when the stakes are high and that little plays can make a difference,” said Kades. “I believe that propelled us to know that anything is possible.”
Following a quick start to their regular season, the injuries started piling up and the aforementioned slogan seemed to be slipping away. Not to be denied of their goal, senior co-captain Ethan Rodgers, Kades and assistant coach Mike Discavage collaborated to implement a new formation to help the Rams overcome the adversity they faced.
“implementing the new formation was great,” said Rodgers. “We displayed different tactics and had a new mindset. We struggled at first but a lot of players stepped up to get us where we are now. It shows a lot and I am proud of everyone’s effort.”
After a few bumps in the road, the Rams were back on track, thanks mostly to the senior leadership provided by the large senior class including captains Emil Andersen and Rodgers.
“Our senior class has been important each year starting my freshman year when they looked after me,” said Kades. “They set a standard for high school soccer showing me it’s a community and a family. This year’s captains [Emil Andersen and Ethan Rodgers] were good role models who set a precedent and standard if you want to be successful on and off the field.”
“When we changed formations, we went with a senior-oriented defense which included senior backs Emil Andersen, Jamie Bregman and Noah Cox, along with senior goalkeeper Sam Rosenberg,” said Harriton head coach Biff Sturla. “They all stepped up their game tremendously in the district playoffs, fighting for every ball on the field. The rest of the team followed suit. We were 50 seconds from winning the district championship. Andersen, Bregman, Cox and Rosenberg were excellent during the run in districts.”
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