HORSHAM >> In the final pregame huddle, Central Bucks West boys soccer coach Stefan Szygiel stressed a fast start.
With his team roughly 24 hours removed from a grueling conference win over Pennridge on the expansive pitch at Talen Energy Stadium, Szygiel wanted the Bucks to find an early goal so more players could rotate their way in. The Bucks got that early goal, then a second all in the first six minutes.
Jimi Leder scored twice as CB West went on the road to beat Hatboro-Horsham 3-0 Monday afternoon.
“I don’t think (Hatters coach Kyle McGrath) or I expected the game to start that way but it can be a dangerous cushion too,” Szygiel said. “We were in that situation before against them and they’ve come back on us before so the message had to be stick to the game plan and we needed guys who were going to do what we asked.”
The Hatters, who had won four in a row coming into Monday’s contest, started flat and paid for it. Reed Sturza played Leder a terrific ball in the first minute, with the junior catching the keeper in no man’s land and putting away a composed finish for the quick advantage.
With Hatboro-Horsham (7-6-1, 5-4-1 SOL American) unable to shake its sluggish start, the Bucks (11-2-0, 8-1-0 SOL Continental) kept coming and had a string of four straight corner kicks in the minutes following the opening goal. On the fourth, West played it short and while the initial ball in was punched out, Luke Fehrman was able to volley it back in.
The ball got to the goal at the same time as a Hatter defender and West midfielder Carson Snyder but was ruled over the line before anyone else touched it, giving the goal to Fehrman.
“It was not the start we were hoping for and credit to CB West for taking advantage of the first five minutes and scoring two goals,” McGrath said. “That kind of deflated the momentum we had built over over the last four matches. When you give a team like West opportunities, they’re going to take care of them.”
Leder, Sturza and Fehrman were all quite good on Monday and played with connectivity and inventiveness in the attack. Even after going up 2-0, the Bucks weren’t content to sit back and start thinking about rest, choosing to keep attacking.
“We had to come out strong knowing these games still count the same as our 2-1 win over Pennridge,” Leder said. “We had to stay focused. Heavy pressure from the start is crucial for the high school game, so that all around pressure, building from the back and finding ways to get it done were all important.”
Leder nearly picked out Fehrman, with Hatters keeper Zack Kim intercepting the ball, Fehrman was about a split-second too late to get to a Sturza ball and Colin Burn put a cross a shade too high for Leder all in the first half. Sturza also put a shot on frame that Kim was able to stop.
While the Hatters did eventually settle in after the rocky start, West went into the break in firm control.
“To start the game, we were really energetic and really focused, but we kind of lost it a little bit in the second half,” Leder said. “Playing the half-space balls really worked, we saw their back line was really high sometimes so there was a lot of space in the gaps. Finding those balls ahead or running onto it created a lot of success for us.”
Hatboro-Horsham surged well out of the break. Ryan Cole uncorked a curling shot on frame that forced West senior Dylan Smith into a tough save. The Hatters also had a couple of early corner kicks but couldn’t generate any real chances off them thanks to West’s stout defending.
With four games left, the Hatters essentially control their own fate in terms of the postseason. They sat 19th in the District 1-4A standings entering play on Monday and can still win their way into the 24-team bracket, starting with SOL American conference games with Springfield-Montco and Cheltenham this week.
“We’re dealing with some injuries right now, so it comes down to that next man up mentality and we have to take care of business,” McGrath said. “We probably need to win at least three of four, if not all four. We’ve defended very well the last two weeks, we create a lot of opportunities but aren’t finishing them so we’ve been in a lot of tight games. Today, it was simple stuff we didn’t do in the first five minutes.”
Leder iced the game with about 16 minutes left when he pounced on a rebound inside the six-yard box. Sturza fired a shot that Kim did well to save, but with nobody there to clear it, Leder was able to fire it home before the Hatters’ senior keeper could slide over for the double-save.
“We always have to look for the rebounds,” Leder said. “It’s high school soccer, there’s going to be a lot of rebounds and missed bounces, so we have to pounce on them.”
CB West is off until Thursday, when it visits SOL Continental-leading North Penn in a pivotal showdown. The Knights erased a 2-0 deficit to beat West 4-2 in their first meeting, so both sides are expecting another intense, high-level clash later this week.
The Bucks did rotate plenty of players in and once they settled back in to the second half, the level of play stayed up. It was just the type of performance they had hoped for.
“There was continuity even when we were moving guys through and putting guys in different positions,” Szygiel said. “There was a purpose to what they were trying to do and we have to keep going with that. It’s an important time of year, we’re in the back third of the season and want to keep moving forward.”
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 3, HATBORO-HORSHAM 0
CENTRAL BUCKS WEST 2 1 – 3
HATBORO-HORSHAM 0 0 – 0
Goals: CBW – Jimi Leder (Reed Sturza), Luke Fehrman (Nick Centenera), Leder (Sturza). Shots: CBW – 7, HH – 2. Saves: CBW – Dylan Smith 2, HH – Zack Kim 4. Corners: CBW – 5, HH – 7.
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