FRANCONIA >> It took a team as strong and as seasoned as Conestoga to bring Central Bucks West’s history-making run to a close.
“I know a lot of them from club soccer,” said Bucks midfielder Tarin Morris. “They were absolutely phenomenal.”
“Best team we’ve played — all four years,” added fellow senior, defender C.J. Lang.
Chris Donovan scored his 51st and 52nd goal of the season — the second tally even more impressive than the first — to lift the defending state champs to a 2-0 victory over the Bucks in a frosty PIAA-4A State Semifinal Tuesday night at Souderton Area High School.
The win advances the unbeaten Pioneers (24-0-1) to Friday night’s State Final at Hersheypark Stadium (6:30), to take on Hempfield.
Donovan, headed to Drexel next season, made a steal and took it all the way in for the first goal of the contest, beating keeper Dylan Smith with a shot to the far corner, making it 1-0 just over four minutes in.
Shortly before the half, Nick Jennings set up Donovan with some nifty passing, making it 2-0 at the break.
“Their second goal was absolutely phenomenal. I credit that all to Chris Donovan, his moving off the ball and stuff,” Morris said.
The Bucks (18-7) did play far better in the second half, putting on a good deal of pressure and forcing Stoga keeper Luke Smith to make some key saves in order to keep it a two-goal margin.
“I don’t think we gave (Conestoga) much of a game in the first half, which I was very disappointed with,” Bucks coach Stefan Szygiel said. “And that’s one of the key things they’ll take away from this field.
“The first half wasn’t nearly good enough, and they know that, from top to bottom. You can’t spot a team like Conestoga a goal five minutes in. That being said, the second half was much better. We had some good looks, quality chances, but their keeper came up with a big save in the first half, big save in the second half.”
New territory for Bucks
It was a historic run for CB West, making its first trip to states in 35 years, but one the Bucks hope to duplicate in future years.
“It’s totally new territory,” Szygiel said. “I think the guys should be really proud of that. If I look at the big picture, it’s really bright. We return a lot of guys, we lose some key guys obviously, and it’s a really great senior class.
“Looking forward, I think it really looks encouraging for what we’re trying to do.”
From the moment West stepped foot into the postseason, the Bucks sensed there was something special coming.
Of the Bucks’ four playoff wins, Morris said his favorite was the 3-2 win over CB East in the first round of districts.
“What better way to start it off than a win over your rival school?” he said.
The Bucks only gained steam from there, winning 1-0 over Lower Merion to clinch a spot in states, and then as the fourth-place finisher out of District One, West won 1-0 over La Salle and got past Cumberland Valley on PK’s.
West now hopes to make states more of a habit.
“I know the next crew and the next crop coming through are hungry,” Szygiel said. “It doesn’t mean that (states) is what happens every year. We had some things happen in districts and in states that were special, a little magical at times.
“And you need that in a playoff run. That just didn’t show up tonight. The magic kind of ran out, which happens. But we’re very excited about the next class that’s coming through, and we certainly think this is a step for the program that’s gonna kind of kick it up a notch for the years to come.”
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