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Smith the difference as CB West edges North Penn, advances to District 1-4A semifinals

TOWAMENCIN >> Dylan Smith had been there before.

With his team down in the match-deciding spot-kick shootout, the CB West senior goalkeeper wasn’t worried. Just last year, in states, he led his team out of the same deficit to a win.

Saturday, playing North Penn for the third time, Smith made two saves and booted home the winning kick as the No.6 Bucks advanced 3-2 in a shootout over No. 3 North Penn after a 1-1 regulation draw in the District I 4A boys soccer quarterfinals.

“I wasn’t surprised it came down to this,” Smith said. “(Bucks coach) Stefan (Szygiel) said in our last three years, we’ve been 3-3 against them including our games this year, so this was like the Game Seven of it all.”

Smith was magnificent, making 10 saves in regulation under a mountain of pressure. While he wouldn’t go as far as to call it his best game of the season, Smith heaped a ton of credit on his back line.

He had very few routine saves, several spectacular ones and was especially strong in the first overtime. Getting out of that 15 minute stanza intact gave Smith all the confidence he and his guys were going to advance to the semifinals and states for the second straight season.

“The momentum changed for sure,” Smith said. “It’s all about those 5-10 minute spans and we were lucky to get out of it and get some chances going forward.”

North Penn (18-2-0) started the match splendidly, keeping the ball on the surface and knocking it about with precision. Luke McMahon worked himself into a good spot on the endline then crossed to the far post where Jared Huzar tapped it home five minutes in.

The Knights continued to work it around but couldn’t capitalize again as CB West (17-2-0) started to settle into the game.

“For a team to come here and beat us twice, they deserve credit,” Knights coach Paul Duddy said. “The conditions certainly lent itself to not as good soccer as we can play or they can play. Both teams had their chances in regulation and the OT.”

Wind and rain made their marks on the contest and once the Bucks got the wind, they did well to create chaos. A tough and physical group, the Bucks won the team’s second meeting by keeping the ball airborne and away from North Penn, so they tried to so some of the same again on Saturday.

Between a numbers-heavy start on the tap, guys moving all about and formations aplenty, the Bucks kept North Penn from playing its possession style.

“I would say that’s true,” Duddy said. “It works, they got it to PKs and they got the win.”

Szygiel noted that his team couldn’t play the same game as North Penn and expect to win, so they had to mix it up.

“We tried to make it weird,” Szygiel said. “What else are we going to do at this point? They know us, we know them, we have to try something weird. Lot of lineup combinations, lots of different things. We can’t go toe-to-toe with them in terms of a short-passing, quick-combination game, we can’t do it so we have to do other things.

“Today it was enough to take it the full 110 and get it done in PKs.”

CB West tied the game off a Jimi Leder free kick with 18:50 left. A North Penn foul put the ball in almost the worst possible spot defensively, the top of the box and even a large wall of defender’s couldn’t stop Leder from powering his take through and into the net.

From there, it was all on Smith and his defenders — Nick Centenera, Kyle Holt, Luke Fehrman, Bailey Moyer later on and sophomore James Lutz — to hold the line. Lutz in particular was excellent for the Bucks, hurling his body in the way of shots without a second thought and standing his own against McMahon, Huzar and Carter Houlihan on a number of occasions.

“The guys in front of me certainly made it easier because North Penn is always dangerous going forward,” Smith said. “We absolutely have a bond that we’re going to do whatever it takes, but it’s pretty predominant throughout the entire roster. It’s all guys willing to come in and work hard.”

Smith, while enjoying the win and chance to go back to states, said it was a tough game for his as well because he’s become close with a lot of the North Penn guys. He’s club teammates with Houlihan and McMahon and gotten to know a lot of the team’s other players, most of whom shared a quick moment in the handshake line.

The shootout is nothing but pure stress for those involved. As he stood off to the side while his teammates went up to shoot, Smith made sure the last thing each of them heard was “I believe in you.”

North Penn’s Brett Schwengels was terrific in saving the first two PKs, but after Smith stopped one, Colin Burn scored on his take and the following Knights shot went over the bar, the tide turned. With his team up 3-2, Smith stepped to the spot.

“We prep for PKs toward the end of the year and I take part in that, I hit them last year and I hit them earlier this season, so I have worked on them,” Smith said. “It’s no different than the other guys, I have to step up and do it.”

With his foot, Smith had put the match in his hands. Huzar went for a stutter-step but somehow, Smith recovered to deny the shot.

“I love that moment, everything is on the line,” Smith said. “It honestly threw me off a little bit and I second-guessed myself a little but I was able to do well with it so I’m glad it happened the way it did.”

CB West travels to No. 2 Spring-Ford Tuesday for a semifinal game. The Knights host Radnor as they try to play their way into states as one of four teams going after the fifth District 1 bid.

“We would have preferred the other way, but so be it,” Duddy said. “There were a lot of sad players now but they’re resilient and they’ll come back.”

A good goalkeeper is a must in the playoffs. The Bucks have a great one in Smith and he again proved why.

“To have a guy as special as that who can make a save or get scored on in a PK shootout, then take and make one before saving one is what makes him so special,” Syzgiel said. “(North Penn) created some fantastic chances and every one of them was making sure it didn’t go into the back of the net on our end.”

CB WEST 1, NORTH PENN 1 (CB West wins 3-2 on PKs)
CB WEST 0 1 0 0 – 1 (3)
NORTH PENN 1 0 0 0 – 1 (2)
Goals: NP – Jared Huzar (Luke McMahon); CBW – Jimi Leder.

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