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North Penn stays perfect, shuts out Pennridge

Pennridge’s Aiden Castle slides to knock the ball away from North Penn’s Josh Jones during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)
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TOWAMENCIN >> Luke McMahon got free behind the Pennridge defense courtesy of a through ball by Jared Huzar, but a charge by Rams goalkeeper Ryan Mayhew forced McMahon to push his shot a bit wide of the far left post.

“I was trying to shoot but last second the goalie he took away the near post,” the North Penn senior striker said. “So I had to try and go far post and I pulled it a little bit.”

But like others who have a penchant for putting a balls into the back of the net, McMahon has the ability to not let a missed opportunity linger in the memory.

“Scoring goals in soccer is the hardest thing to do and Luke just has a mentality that just get me the ball and I’ll miss four, I’ll miss five, I’ll get the next one,” Knights boys soccer coach Paul Duddy said. “And that’s what great goal scorers do.”

North Penn’s Carter Houlihan settles a pass near Pennridge’s Matt Stevenson during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

Another chance came to McMahon soon after his miss and this one his made sure to give North Penn the opening tally in its Suburban One League Continental Conference with visiting Pennridge, knocking a shot off the far left post and in.

“I was thankful that Aiden (Jerome) playing a great ball to me. Surprised he found that through ball,” McMahon said. “And I knew I had to put one away.”

Carter Houlihan doubled the advantage before halftime while Ryan Stewart added another goal in the second half on a quickly-taken free kick and the Knights kept the record unblemished on a rainy Tuesday afternoon by topping the Rams 3-0.

“Pennridge is a nice, good young team and for them to come out here in the pouring rain to start with, we knew it was going to be anybody’s game,” McMahon said. “So I think for us to get the first go was really important.”

The Rams (6-2-1, 3-2-1 conference) threatened in the box after McMahon made it 1-0 but the Rams had a tough time breaking through the backline of the Knights 8-0-0, 5-0-0) as Pennridge was held scoreless for just the second time this season.

“There was nothing that we weren’t prepared for, they just executed really well in the first half, especially that first 15 minutes,” Rams coach Pete Valimont said. “And that turned out to be the major difference there. We started to settled in a little bit towards the first half and the beginning of the second half. Look, to be honest, we had a couple of chances — after they scored their first goal, we had a point-blank shot in front of the net and we just couldn’t find it. That ties it 1-1. Unfortunately we don’t and they get a second one.”

Duddy came away liking what he saw from his defense, which earned its second straight and fifth shutout of the year.

“Especially in high school game, any soccer, you have to defend well and I thought our guys, our defensive group today deserve credit,” Duddy said. “They defended well, they won a lot of headers and kind of limited the good opportunities for Pennridge. And they have some guys that can hit a ball, man. They’ll score.”

Both teams are back in action Thursday. North Penn stays in SOL Continental play as it visits Souderton at 3:45 p.m. Pennridge, meanwhile, tries to bounce at home against Lansdale Catholic at 7 p.m.

Pennridge’s Dalton Gunthrie looks to pass near North Penn’s Ethan Torri during their game on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

“We’re 6-2-1, our two losses have come to North Penn and CB West. CB West 1-0 and this game 3-0 — the third goal makes it get out of hand a little bit,” Valimont said. “If you’re going to tell me we’re 6-2-1 the first half and those are the two teams we’re going to lose to, any other coach would be ‘Yeah, OK that makes sense, I’ll take that.”

“It’s the games that aren’t North Penn, CB West that we got to make sure that we capitalize on.”

Houlihan pushed the Knights lead to 2-0 in the first half. After taking a pass from Huzar just outside of the 18-yard box, Houlihan slipped past a Rams defender in the box and then knocked in a left-footed shot past Mayhew.

“He’s just a very clever player,” said Duddy of Houlihan. “He’s great on the ball, he reads the game well, as does Luke and some of these other guys.”

North Penn’s third goal surprised even McMahon. After Houlihan was fouled at the top of the box in the second, Stewart quickly got off a free kick that caught Pennridge flat-footed.

“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even noticed he’d taken it. He took that quicker than I expected,” McMahon said. “We practice set pieces — not like that. We don’t think we’re going to get it that easily where nobody’s blocking it. So it was a great play by him, put us up 3-0.”

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