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May’s free kick helps Downingtown East take down Haverford

Downingtown East 's Gabe Wilson, left, celebrates his goal with Cesar May, who set it up. Wilson's marker was the game-winner in a 2-1 decision for Downingtown East against Haverford in the District 1 Class 4A tournament Tuesday. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

UWCHLAN TWP. — Once he saw Alex Floyd hit the turf, Cesar May’s eyes lit up.

Floyd, the Downingtown East junior, had just driven at the heart of Haverford’s defense in the 53rd minute Tuesday afternoon, not repelled until Fords center back Zach Signorello stuck out a leg and felled him a hair’s breadth outside the penalty area.

May stood over the free kick 19 yards from dead center of goal, watching Fords goalie Cole Gillespie build a six-man wall to May’s left. Without any hesitation, the senior captain knew his plan.

“Right when I saw the free kick, I knew where I was going,” he said.

May buried a shot with pace and placement that beat Gillespie to the goalie’s left, then May set up a Gabe Wilson goal that turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory for the No. 13 seed Cougars in the District 1 Class 4A tournament.

It’s the first playoff win for this group of Cougars (14-4-1), who lost each of the last two seasons at Penn Wood in the first round of districts. They advance to take on No. 4 Abington, which had a bye. The season ends for No. 20 Haverford (11-8).

May opted to challenge Gillespie, even though the goalie, who was excellent on the night, wanted to funnel his shot in that direction.

“I saw the wall and I knew it wasn’t as far of a distance,” May said. “It was just outside the box, so I knew I wasn’t going to get it over the wall and make it dip, so I decided to shoot it at the goalkeeper’s side.”

Floyd’s barreling run set the tone, awakening a cagey first 50-some minutes and exemplifying the direct play the Cougars prefer. May doubled the edge by curling a dangerous ball from the right wing in the 73rd that found Wilson, who took a touch to put off a defender and Gillespie and tapped in the clincher.

Haverford’s Alex Reardon is pressured from behind by Downingtown East’s Mike Batisti in the first half of their District 1 Class 4A game. Reardon had the Fords only goal in a 2-1 loss. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)

East limited Haverford’s touches in dangerous areas for the most part. Forward Cam Morse was mostly kept under wraps by the center back duo of Chris Comber and Brett McCartney.

It wasn’t until the 80th that the Fords found an opening, with Morse dropping deep and slicing a through ball into the diagonal run of Alex Reardon, who took a touch and buried a shot with 45 seconds left.

“We were down 2-0, my last playoff game, my last high school game, just wanted to finish it out as best I could,” Reardon said. “I just saw the defender let it go, decided to slot it bottom right, then just got the ball and tried to get another one last minute.”

“Our center backs and myself, we have such a great bond together,” East goalie Dan Good said. “We just work well. That’s something we’ve tried to work on, and they’re there for me, I’m there for them. We’re a family. We’re a bunch of boys who’ll go out and get the win by getting stuck in and working hard.”

The Fords got a last look at an equalizer in the waning seconds, but a shot by Sammy Ortiz was blocked, and Marc Mays’ follow from 30 yards sailed harmlessly over the bar. Good needed to make only two saves, none particularly challenging, while Gillespie made eight, including a spectacular leaping denial of a Zach Delone drive from distance in the second half.

The Fords’ victory for the season came in a winning campaign that landed them in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under coach Dave Cassanelli following an eight-year drought.

“It’s only the second time in the past 11 years we’ve made it to the playoffs, so it only goes up from here,” Reardon said. “We’ve got a great young group of guys who I think can really do something the next couple of years.”

East’s advancement ends two years of frustration against Delco opposition. For Good, who’s been in net since his sophomore season, Tuesday’s triumph was a palpable unburdening.

“It’s huge. This is something we’ve really been talking about since the beginning of the season,” Good said. “Our first goal would’ve been to win the Ches-Mont; came down to the last game and we couldn’t get that goal done, so then we put all of our eyes to this game because we wanted to win a playoff game, especially since I haven’t won one. I was hungry for it. This is phenomenal.”

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