Wilson comes alive in 2nd half to beat Unionville 4-0 in PIAA 4A semifinal

RED HILL >> The Unionville defense didn’t allow Wilson a single shot in the first half Tuesday night.

Clearly it was going to take something special for the Bulldogs to break down such opposition.

Luckily for Wilson, Tyler Dell had something in mind.

The senior midfielder’s audacious one-timer from 35 yards in the 51st minute gave Wilson a quick reward after being bossed in the first half and opened the floodgates for the Bulldogs on the way to a 4-0 victory over Unionville in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal at Upper Perkiomen.

Unionville’s Garrett Pinkston (15) clears the ball while being pressured by Wilson’s Devven Frey during their PIAA 4A semifinal Tuesday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Wilson is Hershey-bound for the fourth time in program history and will meet another District 1 side, Radnor, which defeated Seneca Valley 3-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal in Chambersburg. The final takes place Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to do it with this group of guys,” Dell said. “It shows that we can do anything we want.”

Dell scored two goals while senior forward Sage Klein had a goal and two assists and junior forward Patrick Ndambo also scored. Sophomore midfielder Devven Frey also had an assist, an innocuous pass in the midfield that turned into Dell’s shining moment.

“We weren’t proud of what we did in the first half. That just wasn’t us. That wasn’t Wilson soccer,” forward Sage Klein said. “It would take heart to work to get it done and I think that’s what we did.”

Unionville’s Andrew Bowers (5) carries the ball as he’s pressured by Wilson’s Devven Frey during their PIAA 4A semifinal Tuesday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Unionville saw its season conclude 18-7-1 after taking a share of the Ches-Mont League championship and qualifying for the PIAA tournament for the first time since 2014 and fourth time this century.

A state semifinal run — Unionville also reached the PIAA semis in 2009 as District 1 champion, losing to eventual champ Father Judge in OT — was outstanding from a team that entered the District 1 playoffs as the No. 9 seed.

“These guys had a great season,” longtime Unionville coach Rich Garber said. “I can’t fault their effort because they gave me everything they have. They believed in each other and started bonding as a team and got better and more confident in themselves. When you’re confident and playing as a team, you can get real far.”

Through 40 minutes Tuesday, it seemed like Unionville’s season was headed to Hershey. The Indians owned the first half with front-foot defending from center backs Garrett Pinkston and Matt Adams and outside backs Luke Needs and Alex O’Leary supporting the attack of midfielders Michael Hewes, Mark Echevarria and Evan Dougherty and forward Tom Kelly. Unionville had six shots to zero for Wilson, but no great scoring chance from their spell of dominance — an opportunity missed that would come back to haunt.

“I thought we played wonderfully. We controlled most of the game. For us to not get one the first half was OK, we could live with it,” Garber said.

Unionville’s Michael Hewes (7) takes a shot as Wilson’s Lucas Sarge defends during their PIAA 4A semifinal Tuesday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“First half we looked scared,” Dell said of Wilson’s play. “Our coaches laid into us at half and let us know we’re a lot better than (our first-half play). But second half we showed we can play with any team.”

That’s indisputable from a team that previously knocked off the District 12 champion (Roman Catholic) and District 11 champ (Freedom), both without conceding a goal. The District 3 silver medalists have six shutouts in their last seven postseason matches.

Wilson brought the fight early in the second half and were rewarded 11 minutes in. Given some space so far from goal, rather than dribbling the ball closer to the penalty area, Dell took a rip and sent a majestic shot over Unionville goalkeeper Alex Dolce for the opener with 29:11 to play.

“It just came to me. It always happens in practice, I just never do it in a game,” Dell said. “(To do it in the) state semifinal, it’s unbelievable.”

It was a shot so good, even the opposing coach couldn’t help but speak highly of the strike.

“That kid hit it great. That first goal was beautiful,” Garber said. “I think we kind of lost our heads and all of a sudden it was a steamroller.”

Wilson’s Sage Klein, center, is congratulated by Patrick Ndambo, left, and Keegan Miller (25) after scoring the Bulldogs’ second goal against

Wilson kept the momentum almost the entire second half and salted the game on Klein’s lofted hit from the left flank after a throw-in was sent back toward the sideline for a 2-0 margin with 10:18 to play. Patrick Ndambo made it three on a breakaway after goalkeeper Ben Solsky’s punt into the wind got behind the Indians’ defense while Dell got his double on an end-line cut-back from Klein after a free kick on the left side.

“They were down our throats the whole first half, but from the second-half whistle on we kept running and running,” Dell said. “Once the first one came, they just kept coming.”

It was Unionville’s most lopsided defeat of the season after conceding only 17 goals in 25 matches coming in. But after reaching the state’s final four, it’s hard to feel too hard done considering the Indians extended their season beyond their “season-ending” banquet.

“We had our banquet the other day. I don’t know if that was bad luck or not? I never actually had a game after the banquet,” Garber said. “It’s a wonderful bunch who was so great to work with.”

Unionville’s Garrett Pinkston remains on the field as Wilson players celebrate in the background after Wilson defeated Unionville 4-0 in the PIAA 4A semifinals Tuesday at Upper Perkiomen. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)




Pope John Paul II ousted by West York at states again

SHILLINGTON >> Senior libero Simone Sparano thought Saturday was the best the Pope John Paul II girls volleyball team played all season.

Unfortunately for the Golden Panthers, West York seems to have their number.

The Bulldogs came through in the clutch time and time again in a close three-set PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal match at Gov. Mifflin Intermediate School, West York winning over Pope John Paul II 3-0 and ousting PJP for the second straight season.

Set scores were 26-24, 25-22, 26-24, the Golden Panthers having set points in the first and third sets, only to see it slip away.

Pope John Paul II’s Sarah Ward (17) sends a kill down the line against West York during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“It’s obviously frustrating considering it happened three times. But they just know how to finish games,” Sparano said. “I don’t think we played terribly. I think that was the best we played all season so I’m happy with how we did.”

“That was a tough one. We’re winning the first and the third sets by decent amounts and we just couldn’t finish,” PJP coach Ryan Sell said. “We couldn’t score two points in a row when it mattered most.”

Pope John Paul II’s Hanna Tulli (22) sends a kill past a pair of West York blockers during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

That had a lot to do with the quality of District 3 champion West York (23-1), which was led by senior Julia Rill (15 kills, 10 digs), senior Gianna Krinock (7 kills, 17 digs, 17 service points), and junior libero Kam Hepler (19 digs). The Bulldogs advance to the semifinals on Nov. 13 where it will meet District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic (3-0 winner over Villa Maria Saturday) for the second straight year in the Final Four.

Junior outside hitter Sarah Ward’s 11 kills were a team-high while sophomore Chelsea Harvey (27 assists, five kills) and senior Mikaela Monroe (five kills) were other key contributors for PJP.

In the first game, PJP worked the biggest lead of the set (3 points) to 23-20 and 24-21, game points in hand. But the nerves crept in and West York’s level raised as it rattled off five straight points, the last two by way of net violations for the 26-24 win. The second game was equally tight up to 22-22. But the Bulldogs won a long, scrambling point for the lead and Tesia Thomas’ kill punctuated the 25-22 win. Game 3 was eeriely familiar as PJP led 24-22, only to be overtaken with a four-point run by West York that was highlighted by athletic kills from Thomas and Rill.

Pope John Paul II’s Caitlin Gilinger (7) hits down the line for a kill against West York during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“I think there were some nerves,” Sparano said. “Especially in the last (set) because of the way we’d lost the first two. We felt like we could do it this time, but there was some angst about it. I don’t think we’ve ever had this problem before. It’s a state tournament game and you’re always going to be nervous especially in those really tight moments. They just came out on top this time.”

Pope John Paul II (14-7) equaled its postseason run of the previous season though it wasn’t able to duplicate the championship moments of 2017, settling for silver in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 tournaments.

“Even if we didn’t accomplish what we did last year, I still think it was a great season,” Sparano said. “Last year, our leaders were our seniors, so losing them was a tough loss. But I think we were able to regroup and create our own leadership. We had 10 seniors and I think we all stepped up and did our part.”

Pope John Paul II’s Chelsea Harvey, center, and Hanna Tulli try to block the hit of West York’s Georgianna Kahley during a PIAA 3A quarterfinal Saturday at Gov. Mifflin. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

PJP’s seniors include Maddie Lesinski, Taylor Roberto, Valerie Hull, Caitlin Gilinger, Sophia Bonanno, Madeline Mulcahey, Monroe, Madison Lewis, Sparano and Olivia Debald.

“Seasons are journeys. I felt like there was a lot of growth from a lot of people that will still be around while our seniors helped us out a lot. It was fun and it was challenging. (Entering the season) we didn’t lose many people so lots of people thought that (we’d be right back to where we were), but every year is different. It doesn’t matter how much you have coming back. But it was fun for sure; I learned a lot and I hope they did, too.




All-Pioneer Athletic Conference Boys & Girls Golf Teams

Boys

FIRST TEAM
Name Grade School
Josh Ryan 10 Norristown
Caleb Ryan 12 Norristown
Luke Watson 10 Spring-Ford
Nick Martin 11 Methacton
Axel Kalbach 12 Spring-Ford
Dylan Lasecki 12 Methacton
Ryan Glenn 12 Owen J. Roberts
Jack Murray 12 Owen J. Roberts
SECOND TEAM
Name Grade School
Conrad Benford 11 Owen J. Roberts
John Engle 10 Boyertown
Macauley Swenk 12 Upper Perkiomen
Andrew Catania 12 Methacton
Nathan Pierce 11 Spring-Ford
HONORABLE MENTION
Name Grade School
AJ Thomas 12 Methacton
Nicholas Massa 12 Owen J. Roberts
Steven Stumpo 12 Spring-Ford
Mitchell Schwartz 12 Phoenixville
Curran Bono 12 Perkiomen Valley
Paul Brady 9 Pope John Paul II
Alex White 9 Pope John Paul II
Jack Hershey 12 Pope John Paul II
Andrew Burkhardt 12 Perkiomen Valley
Cameron Mowery 12 Pottsgrove

Girls

FIRST TEAM
Name Grade School
Liddie McCook 12 Downingtown East
Lily Byrne 12 Downingtown West
Ava O’Sullivan 9 Downingtown East
Morgan Frampton 11 Phoenixville
Riley Thomas 10 Methacton
Anisha Sonti 11 Downingtown East
Hailey Phillips 12 Hatboro-Horsham
Rosie Byrne 10 Downingtown West
SECOND TEAM
Name Grade School
Amelia DiCicco 11 Spring-Ford
Ashley Liu 12 Methacton
Sarah Lawrie 9 Methacton
Amanda Heins 12 Great Valley
Sheila Fisher 11 Hatboro-Horsham
Amanda Schuebel 9 Upper Merion
Bethany Julias 10 Pope John Paul II
Cassidy Landis 12 Spring-Ford
HONORABLE MENTION
Name Grade School
Jackie McCue 12 Methacton
Mae Sharaf 12 Great Valley
Aleena Ghanta 10 Spring-Ford
Cerise Walker 10 Methacton
Katelyn Samples 11 Downingtown East
Morgan Morris 12 Phoenixville
Ava Lichok 9 Downingtown East
     



Hill School earns return to PAISAA final with 2-0 win over Mercersburg

POTTSTOWN >> Act like you’ve been there before.

In the Hill School boys soccer team’s case, it has been and knows just how to get there.

‘There’ is the Pa. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship game and The Hill earned its place in it for a sixth straight season Thursday evening with a poised and opportunistic performance in a 2-0 victory over Mercersburg Academy on Harry Price Field.

Senior Euan Forrest and senior Hale Lombard found the net for the Blues, who set up a state final rematch with Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy, a 1-0 winner over Kiski School in Thursday’s other semifinal. The final goes down at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Immaculata University.


The Blues managed to blank a Mercersburg team that was out for blood after Hill won their regular-season meeting 3-2 on Oct. 27 in a match that effectively decided the Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship. They did it with an experienced defensive display featuring the center back tandem of Forrest and classmate Aidan Sullivan, outside backs Caleb Gerdeman and Aiden Woolley and goalkeeper Alan Kim.

“I think having a back four that went through this all last year – even though the rest of our team is very young – they have been there and done that and have brought a calm to the group that has allowed our keeper to mature from where he was up to tonight, where he was outstanding,” Hill head coach Chris Drowne said.

Mercersburg’s Diego Morgan (7) tries to control the ball as Hill School defenders, from left, Aidan Sullivan, Euan Forrest, Chance Antonio and Caleb Gerdeman look on. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

That group wasn’t shy about blocking shots against the Storm’s capable attack and allowed only three shots on goal.

“With the stakes being what they are and what we’ve been through this season, putting our bodies on the line or taking an extra step for the anyone of the guys isn’t something we have the think about, we just do it,” Sullivan said. “Everyone cares about the team so much and we want success so much.”

Of the Storm’s three shots, two were excellent scoring chances for Mercersburg senior standout Sam Morgan, but junior Kim expertly stopped both, the first with a quick-reaction, low save to his right in the 10th minute that was a turning point after the Storm bossed the start of the match.

“That save changes the whole game,” Sullivan said. “They had the momentum at that point and that completely killed their momentum. And five or 10 minutes later we put one in the net.”

Hill worked its way into the game thereafter and quickly got their reward on a Sam Beckett corner kick delivered right on a platter for Forrest, whose wide-open header gave Hill a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.

Hill School’s Sam Beckett, right, and Mercersburg’s Diego Morgan compete for the ball. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

With the midfield trio of Beckett, Lombard and Chance Antonio having worked its way into the game, the Blues essentially nullified Mercersburg for the next 40 minutes.

The Storm kicked on with 20 minutes remaining, their best chance on a ball over the top for Morgan, who worked a small breakaway but was closed well by Kim.

Hill again turned defense into offense when Beckett was given too much space on the edge of the 18 on the right. The freshman rattled the crossbar with his left-footed blast, which rebounded to Lombard, who took a touch and finished with his right for a 2-0 advantage with 14:30 to play.

After seeing out the final 15 minutes, Hill continued its chase for a fourth PAISAA championship (2013, 2014, 2016).

It is their sixth consecutive appearance in the final – every year the PAISAA has staged a tournament – and again served as proof of Hill’s tactic of taking on the top prep schools in the region early in the season with long-range benefit in mind.

“That’s what I enjoy about coaching at a boarding school,” Drowne said. “It takes a few weeks to figure out who is going to click next to one another because they haven’t played with each other since first grade. They’ve played together since the last week of August. That takes a little while. So I think that’s why you see a team like us peak a little later because it takes some time. You get asked a lot of questions when you play a St. Benedict’s or a Berkshire, but those are questions you get to sort out before you get to this level. I thought those experiences showed up tonight.”

Hill School’s Chance Antonio keeps possession while avoiding a slide tackle. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Now, Hill’s attention can turn solely to reclaiming the PAISAA title after last year’s 2-0 final defeat to SCHA.

“We won it our sophomore year and obviously last year (2-0 loss), I think for us seniors and all the kids on the team last year, we want redemption,” Sullivan said.

They know the energy of playing for a trophy and are ready for it.

“The whole experience of the bus ride there, under the lights, all the fans, the stakes, seeing the trophy … it’s a different experience every time and each time it gets more exciting the older you get because of the more responsibilities you have (to the team),” Forrest said.




Neighbors Pottsgrove, Pottstown clash for District 1-4A championship

District One Class 4A Championship Game: No. 2 Pottstown Trojans (6-5) vs. No. 1 Pottsgrove Falcons (10-1)

Where >> Phoenixville High School’s Washington Field, 7 p.m. Friday. Pottsgrove earned the right to host as the top seed, but with more rain in the forecast, no one wanted to risk a repeat of last Friday night’s rain-soaked semifinals.

“We’d have had nothing but standing water, puddles on the field,” said Pottsgrove’s coach Bill Hawthorne. “Phoenixville was gracious enough to host, and really it’s for not only the safety of the players but also the fans — this gives them a chance to see a high-quality football game rather than another Mud Bowl.”

How They Got Here >> Two-time defending district champion Pottsgrove survived a scare from Bishop Shanahan, 14-13, in a mud-soaked game last Friday. Pottstown claimed its first playoff victory in recent program history over Springfield Township, 28-13.

Last Meeting >> The Falcons thrashed Pottstown, 45-6, in Week 5 this season. The Falcons racked up 353 rushing yards on the evening, led by senior RB Isaiah Taylor, who had 194 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

Background >> There’s rarely any need to describe what’s at stake when these two schools meet. A rivalry between two schools separated by less than two miles pits childhood friends, teammates, and at some times even cousins against one another in a battle for neighborhood bragging rights.

And while the recent history has tilted in favor of the Falcons, Pottstown coach Mark Fischer insists his squad has their eyes on the big picture and won’t get caught up in those rivalries within the game.

“The approach we’re taking isn’t about where we stand against Pottsgrove, or the proximity of this rivalry,” he explained. “We view it as, we have another opponent Friday night, these are their tendencies, and here are the things we can do well.

“If we get too caught up in the Pottsgrove aspect, that’s when we struggle.”

That said, Fischer didn’t downplay the significance of the event. “It’s exciting for the players,” he said, “to see the effort and hard work pay off. I loved watching them celebrate after the win last Friday — it’s very rewarding.”

On the Pottsgrove end, the battle-tested Falcons are familiar with the stakes, having claimed the past two District 1 Class 4A titles. Does going against their crosstown rivals change anything?

“Just talking to our players this week — it’s special when these two teams get together in the regular season,” said Hawthorne. “It’s just more so when there’s a district championship on the line.

Our players have a lot of respect for the Pottstown kids, they grew up with them. At the same time, if we were to lose, our players know they’re going to hear about it not only this year, but quite possibly for the rest of their lives.

“It’s a respectful rivalry, but at the same time, it’s going to be a hard-hitting, fast-paced football game.”

Pottstown quarterback Josiah Wiggins. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

When Pottstown has the ball >> Asked for the key to last week’s semifinal win over Springfield Township, Fischer didn’t hesitate.

“We were in the shotgun most of the night,” he explained, “and our center, Destyn Snyder, was able to give us clean snaps every time. Springfield, they had some trouble on the exchange — ours were clean, which allowed us to focus on the rest of our offense’s execution.”

While most of that execution was on the ground (180 yards on 48 carries) the Trojans went to the air enough — despite the conditions — to force future opponents to view them as a multi-faceted offense. Quarterback Josiah Wiggins completed four of eight passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Nehemiah Figueroa also completed a 22-yard pass of his own.

The Darden brothers, Daniel and Dereck, accounted for three of the Trojans’ four scores, Daniel on a pair of short runs and Dereck via a 46-yard connection with Wiggins just before halftime. Hawthorne says his team will be on the lookout for even more new wrinkles in the Pottstown offense.

“This is a completely different team than we played earlier,” he said. “Wiggins has evolved into a top playmaker. Defensively, they’re giving more looks and are much more stout across the board, plus they always seem to have a trick play or some wrinkle that works for them on special teams.”

The story on defense for the Falcons begins with senior Ryan Bodolus, who dominated last week’s win over Bishop Shanahan. Bodolus registered two sacks and numerous other tackles, while forcing two fumbles (one of which he returned for a touchdown) and blocking the potential game-tying extra point. Hawthorne is not particularly prone to hyperbole, so his description of Bodolus’ performance as ‘one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen’ underscores the impact the defensive end had on the narrow outcome.

“The reality is, he’s doing things like this every game,” said Hawthorne, “but he’s become so consistent that it’s kind of old hat to those who watch him.”

Pottsgrove’s league-leading defense (10.1 points allowed per game) will be tasked with stopping Wiggins, fourth in the PAC in rushing with 827 yards and 12 TDs this year despite missing one game. When Wiggins does go to the air, he’ll look for Figueroa who’s been on the business end of about two-thirds of the Trojans’ completed passes this year.

Pottsgrove quarterback Jay Sisko bursts around the edge on a long carry against Pope John Paul II. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

When Pottsgrove has the ball >> Perhaps Hawthorne said it best, when asked for any players who might come from off the radar to make a big impact Friday.

“I mean,” he chuckled, “I think you’ll see a little bit of the same.”

‘The same’ refers to a punishing ground game that eats up the clock and allows a dominant offensive line to find its groove early and often blocking for PAC-leading rusher Isaiah Taylor (1,097 yards, 13 TD), who returned from a two-week absence last week with 179 yards and a score. Taylor is joined by QB Jay Sisko, who’s run for 659 yards and 11 scores of his own, plus senior backs Isaiah Glover and Jadore Colbert in rounding out a prolific, deep running game for the Falcons.

What ‘the same’ does not mean is an identical game plan from the first meeting. Hawthorne knows he can’t be content to simply ‘stick with what works’ and presume another one-sided victory.

“In a rivalry like this, they’re gonna do everything they can to mix it up—different looks, different wrinkles,” he said. “We have to not only be prepared for that, but be able to do the same. Otherwise, they can stuff our game plan simply on past knowledge.”

When Sisko does go to the air, Jimai Springfield and Bodolus, who plays tight end on offense, see the lion’s share of the targets.

Pottstown isn’t without its own defensive standouts, chief amongst them safety Figueroa, who leads the PAC with eight interceptions in 2018. The Dardens figure prominently on this side of the ball as well, Dereck as a hard-hitting linebacker who registered his 100th tackle last week, and Daniel as a shutdown corner.

The key for the Trojans will be withstanding the onslaught in the trenches from the experienced Falcons offensive line, featuring Nate Tornetta, Justin Adams, Manny Allen, Ethan McHugh, Darrian Seaman, and Bodolus. The Falcons’ rushing game is averaging 230 yards per contest, and reaching or exceeding that number Friday makes Pottstown’s path to an upset victory very tricky.

Details >> The winner will move on to battle the District 4 champion next Friday — either Jersey Shore or Selinsgrove —right back at Phoenixville High School.

A win would give Pottsgrove its fifth district championship since 2009 and third 4A crown in a row. Pottstown is in search of their first district crown.

Prediction >> The teams can’t catch a break with the weather forecast, as a band of heavy rain is expected to hit right around game time. This could impact the game in numerous ways, not the least of which is lessening the ability to attack through the air, which was shaping up to be a possible advantage for a Pottstown team who’s shown an increasing willingness to use QB Wiggins and

WR Figueroa as an emerging tandem since Wiggins’ return from injury.

Regardless of the conditions, Friday’s contest will likely show the progress made by Pottstown over the year, and it’s clear Hawthorne and the Falcons aren’t expecting a result like that of the previous two meetings (a 49-6 win in 2017, and 45-6 earlier this season.)

But the postseason is about execution and experience. The Falcons have been here the previous two years, and emphasize precise execution of a weather-proof game plan better than anyone. … Pottsgrove 34, Pottstown 13.




Parkland prevails over Downingtown East in PIAA 4A first round, 2-0

ALLENTOWN >> Parkland forward Ava Schaller had a frustrating halftime after flashing her shot wide on a breakaway in the final 10 seconds of the first half Tuesday night in a PIAA Class 4A playoff first round match against Downingtown East.

The junior had next to no wait on making amends once the game resumed.

Schaller fired home a rebound in the first minute of the second half and teammate Zoe Schutter scored a game-sealing goal in the final two minutes as District 11 champion Parkland advanced over Downingtown East 2-0 at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown.

“With six seconds to go in the half, she had that duck that she missed,” Parkland coach Al Haddad said of Schaller. “She was really down on herself a little bit. We did everything we could to pump them up a little bit and a minute in she got the first one that the team needed.”


Parkland (23-2) advanced to meet Pennridge, an 8-0 winner over Central, on Saturday in a quarterfinal at a site and time to be determined.
Downingtown East capped its season 17-6 with a return to the PIAA playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The Cougars were the fifth-place finishers in District 1 after downing defending champion Pennsbury in the fifth-place game.

“We had a fantastic season and a great group of seniors,” East head coach Craig Reed said. “We knew we were coming in against a really good team. We were dangerous early and created a lot of chances and had a lot of corner kicks but they defended well.

“Some of those early chances, if we could’ve put one away maybe it would’ve been different. Sometimes it’s not your day but I’m really proud of them.”

East looked the better side early and had four shots and a series of corners before Parkland had really gotten forward. But the Trojans grew into the game and started winning the midfield battles. Downingtown East goalkeeper Ashley Buchheit (six saves) came up big on a couple chances in the first half, a Schutter breakaway and then made an excellent save on a wide-open blast from Schutter from close range with 9:10 before half.

Parkland’s quick goal in the second half came from Ava Hanna’s cross from the left that was parried by Buchheit, but was picked up by Schaller and netted with the keeper recovering.

Parkland’s Jocelyn Fowler and Downingtown East’s Eliza Trasatti fight for the ball Tuesday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Downingtown East’s reaction was not immediate, but it came in a strong 10-plus minute span midway through the second half with scoring chances coming from Emily Buckner’s free kick from distance, a fizzing Livi Lawton shot and a nearly-amazing backheel shot from Rebekah March, all saved by Teresa Gonzalez (five saves in second half).

East believed the leveler was coming.

“We play a really tough schedule all year. There’s been a couple games we’ve had to come from behind so we never panic,” Reed said. ‘We figured it would be a deflection or a corner kick or a goal around the box or something that skips on the turf.”

But it never came for the Cougars.

Downingtown East will say goodbye to a senior class that includes Eliza Trasatti, Olivia Vivirito, Emily Wurzel, Lawton and Maddie Eckels.

“I would say it started with our senior leadership and them as quality players and hard workers,” Reed said. “We just got better and better as the season went on. Our first goal was to win the Ches-Mont, after we did that we wanted to try to get into states and make a run at it.

“We came up a little short today, but all the way through the roster, the work ethic and attitude from the kids has been excellent, but especially from the seniors.”

Parkland’s Madi Warminsky and Downingtown East’s Caroline McDonald battle for the ball. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)




Spring-Ford’s historic postseason run ends against Freedom

ALLENTOWN >> Freedom head coach Matthew Reightler was completely certain.

“That was the best team we faced all year. I’ll say that without a doubt,” the second-year coach said minutes after facing Spring-Ford. “They had us on the back foot. They pushed us really hard.”

Better and winner aren’t synonymous, as postseason soccer often proves.

Spring-Ford bossed Tuesday night’s PIAA Class 4A playoff first round match but was undone by Freedom’s one and only shot on goal as Freedom claimed a 1-0 victory at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown, ending the Rams’ season.

Sebastian Garces got the decisive poke of a deflected shot in a big scrum in front of the Spring-Ford goal with 21.2 seconds until halftime. While the goal won’t win them any style points, Freedom’s defensive record earns it many points: the Patriots didn’t concede a goal on the way to winning their first District 11 championship in 28 years and picked up another shutout Tuesday.

Freedom improves to 20-1-4 on the season and will meet District 3’s Wilson, a penalty kick winner over Roman Catholic, on Saturday in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.

The best season in Spring-Ford program history ended 18-4-3 after reaching the PIAA playoffs for the first time as the fifth-place finisher in District 1.

The Rams proved to be one of the most technically skilled teams in the state, but had their difficulties against teams with a defensive identity — their undoing in the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship (Perkiomen Valley), District 1 semifinal (Central Bucks West) and Tuesday night.

“I think that game defines our season. Same thing against PV, same in district semis. We go the long road and just … crash,” senior captain Sal Ibarra said. “I like to say that good teams find a way to win, but we would just hit that hurdle where we just could not get over it.

“We almost got there, but then that extra hump we couldn’t quite take it home.”

The Rams had eight shots to just two for Freedom and had the better of the entire match. But Patriots goalkeeper Derek Bast commanded his area excellently and was well protected by his defense. Bast was credited with six saves but was not tested enough by the Rams’ offense, which was too often intent on creating a perfect goal in a game where any goal would do — and did.

The Spring-Ford front 3 of Colin Trainor, Brett Gulati and Brandon Duke carried a threat as they usually do, but weren’t at their best on a damp, foggy night in Allentown.

“This was the best front 3 we’ve seen all season so we just wanted to limit the quality of their chances,” Reightler said. “We’ve only trailed twice all season so once we got our goal we liked our chances to hold it. This team (Freedom) has given up 8 goals in 25 games and as long as we could keep them to those half chances we could stop them.”

For all the pressure Spring-Ford generated in the final 25 minutes, it never translated into any golden chances.

“I feel like we could have made it farther,” senior defender Gabe Locke said with a rueful chuckle. “Honestly, I think we outclassed them. They got lucky on the goal, but it is what it is. We gave it our all.”

Despite the loss, Spring-Ford playing in November was a significant step.

“When we had our meetings last year, the coaches were asking us what our goals were for this season and we really overachieved them,” senior midfielder Johnny Guimaraes said. “We just wanted to win the PAC and get past the first round of districts. And the coaches were like, ‘We think you can do a lot better than that.’ But I don’t think we even saw it then.”

They eventually came to see it, even if it wasn’t as evident in the aftermath of Tuesday’s hard-luck defeat.

“This is a hard loss to swallow being that we controlled the large majority of that game,” Spring-Ford coach Brent Kissel said, “but they should hold their heads up high for what they accomplished this season. They single-handedly changed the way the state, district and PAC thinks about Spring-Ford soccer.”

NOTES >> Spring-Ford will lose senior starters Guimaraes, Ibarra, Locke, Jake Abruzzo, Aiden Hudon, goalkeeper Ray Fortebuono and reserves Nolan Schweitzer, Andrew Nicolo, Myles Bastable and Liam Hungate, but seem like a team filled with potential. “I think it sets an example for the following years,” Guimaraes said. “We’re excited to see what next year’s team can do. They’re going to be strong.”




Hill School caps unbeaten run to Mid-Atlantic Prep League crown

POTTSTOWN >> A raucous atmosphere, a win over your archrival, and a league trophy for good measure. Who could ask for anything more?

The Hill School field hockey team couldn’t have asked for more Saturday when it made the most of its chances in a 2-0 victory over Lawrenceville to complete a run to the outright Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship.

The Hill School student body celebrates with the field hockey team after its 2-0 win over Lawrenceville to clinch the Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship Saturday. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The win on Briggs S. Cunningham ‘26 ‘50 Field capped the 131st installment of The Hill School-Lawrenceville Day with plenty of fan support lining the field.

Sophomore Logan Clouser was the architect of both Blues goals, converted on tip-ins from senior Taylor Duffany and junior Alex Conway in each half.

“A lot of happiness, a lot of tears – happy ones,” said Duffany, a senior captain from Pottstown. “Knowing all our hard work paid off, every sprint, every drill. It’s great to know it all paid off.”

Hill improved to 13-3 after capping its 5-0 MAPL run and reversing last year’s 2-1 loss to Lawrenceville for the league title.

The Hill School’s Logan Clouser (10) sends a shot toward goal that was tipped in by Taylor Duffany. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“It’s so satisfying. We work really hard and play a super-hard schedule against top 20 teams in the country,” senior Tatumn Eccleston said. “This win is what we worked for all year so it’s so exciting.”

With the potential of all its success to date going for naught, it wasn’t a dream start for the Blues. Lawrenceville was the stronger side in the first five minutes, but Hill worked its way into the game and struck first on its first corner when Logan Clouser’s second-chance shot was tipped in by Duffany 19 minutes in.

“I’ve been having a dry spell scoring a little so I honestly wasn’t expecting a goal,” Duffany said. “That was all Logan Clouser, I just finished it off for her. Props to her.”

The Hill School’s Taylor Duffany, right, knocks the ball away from Lawrenceville’s Lizzie Huesman. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Lawrenceville led statistically in the first half, 7-2 in shots on goal, 8-6 overall shots, but the freshman defensive tandem of Maddy Orsi and goalie Hayley Gable (eight saves) were superb for Hill.

“It was definitely hard fought,” Eccleston said. “Our scores have been very even and they play similar to us so we knew we had to come out strong. We wanted it a lot and were able to fight harder.”

With 12:16 to play, the Blues got the breathing room they needed when Clouser expertly carried to the right and centered toward the cage for an onrushing Conway for the 2-0 final margin.

With the underclassmen-filled defense, including sophomore Tanner Eccleston, plus other key underclassmen like Clouser and midfielder Josephine Palde, the Hill’s trajectory is pointing skyward.

“It’s going to be awesome for the future too,” Eccleston said. “We have such a young team with such great players. Our sophomore class has about 12 kids so it’s going to be a strong future.”

But first, The Hill turns its attention to the PAISAA Championships, which begin Tuesday when Hill, the No. 4 seed, hosts No. 5 Agnes Irwin at 3:45 p.m.

NOTES >> Hill led in corners 8-5 and total shots 10-9. … Other seniors on the Hill roster include Isabella Palde and Sophie Goldberg.




Hill School doubles up Lawrenceville for outright MAPL championship

POTTSTOWN >> The Hill School boys soccer team’s goals never change.

On Saturday, the Blues knocked out two out of three of them all at once.

The Hill put on a wide-ranging attacking display in a 4-2 victory over archrival Lawrenceville to claim the outright Mid-Atlantic Prep League championship for the first time since 2013.

“Three games in, I would have never thought we’d be in the position we are today,” said senior defender Euan Forrest. “We had a lot of young kids step up, had a bunch of freshmen in our starting lineups. Everyone kind of came together. Me and Chuck (senior captain Aidan Sullivan) kept everyone focused during the season concentrating on our goals and here we are with two of those three accomplished. But we’ve still got a job to do in the state tournament.”

The Hill School’s Aidan Sullivan leaps into the arms of teammate Euan Forrest at the final whistle of their 4-2 win over Lawrenceville. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Among those freshmen who stepped up, Sam Beckett scored twice for the Blues (11-7), while junior Zach Barrett found the net in a three-goal first half that gave Hill a 3-2 lead after conceding a penalty kick in the 40th minute, converted by Lawrenceville defender Thomas Ehret. Angus Harron had the Big Red’s opening goal.

Forrest rounded out the Hill’s scoring with a finish through traffic after a long throw-in fell to Beckett, who laid off to the senior leader who this week was selected to the High School All-American Game, being held Dec. 1 in Orlando, Fla.

“That one meant a lot. To score in my last L-ville game is something I will remember for a long time,” Forrest said. “For it to be in the run of play too, and the final goal to end that game, it means a lot.”

The Forrest family has been a fixture of the Hill program with older brother Mark, The Mercury All-Area Player of the Year in 2015, now excelling at Lehigh University (he was named a finalist for the national Senior CLASS Award in October).

“I was riding a pretty high wave going into this game. My brothers who went here set pretty high standards for me,” said Euan Forrest. “There’s been a lot of attention on (Mark) the past couple weeks so it’s pretty special to make some headlines of my own.”

Forrest is the third Hill player to be selected to the showcase after Colten Habecker in 2013 and Toni Adewole in 2016.

The Hill School’s Hale Lombard, left, and Lawrenceville’s Thomas Ehret battle for the ball. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

The Hill graduated more than half its roster which made for some early growing pains and a 2-4 start. But the hard yards have paid off with a 5-0 run in the MAPL and an opening-round win in the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament last Wednesday over Friends Central.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a total surprise, but we weren’t going into the season expecting and confident in (winning the MAPL championship) because of so much turnover – we lost 13 of 21 guys and were playing four or five freshmen throughout the year, which makes for a very different team,” Hill head coach Chris Drowne said. “With so many new and young guys, they got baptized by fire. But by the time we got into league play, it wasn’t a step up. We grinded through some of those results, but today I thought whistle to whistle we were the better side and finished our chances.”

Hill created tons of chances with 12 shots on goal and a hit crossbar versus seven for Lawrenceville. Barrett, of Phoenixville, gave Hill a lead 7 minutes in after Lawrenceville goalkeeper Tait Mott made a throw into a gusting wind and had it played right back behind the defense by Hale Lombard for Barrett, who converted. The Big Red leveled in the run of play through Angus Harron but Hill got back on top two minutes later on a Forrest free kick from midfield that was headed in by an unmarked Beckett. Beckett, of Souderton, struck again with a whirling, wobbling hit into the wind from 20 yards for a 3-1 lead.

“Wednesday we had at least as many chances but only put one in and it was in overtime so I think the law of averages caught up for us because to put four in on that keeper, who I thought had an outstanding match, was impressive,” Drowne said. “The guys kept knocking and knocking.”

The veteran backline of Forrest, Aidan Sullivan (Pottstown), Barrett, Caleb Gerdeman (Wescosville) and Aiden Woolley (Royersford) settled in over the final 40 minutes, especially after regaining a two-goal advantage.

With two down and one to go, Hill – winners of three of the past five PAISAA tournaments – hopes to keeps its form as the PAISAA Championships continue (No. 5 Hill faces No. 4 Penn Charter Tuesday)

“When we started the year, we set three goals: MAPL, Lawrenceville, state championship,” Barrett said. “And I think accomplishing our goals and hitting our stride at the right time, it’s giving us some extra confidence but I don’t think we necessarily need it because we’re playing well right now.”




Central Bucks West clears hurdle, denies Spring-Ford 1-0 in District 1-4A semifinal

ROYERSFORD >> After being denied in the semifinals of both the District 1 and PIAA Class 4A championships a year ago, the Final Four hurdle might seem like a big one to the Central Bucks West boys soccer team.

Then again, it might just be the next step.

Tuesday night in the round that foiled the Bucks a year ago, they were the ones doing the foiling as junior Jimi Leder’s first-half strike and an increasingly suffocating defensive performance carried Central Bucks West to a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Spring-Ford to earn a place in the District 1-4A championship.

C.B. West (18-2) will meet No. 4 seed Abington — a 3-2 winner over No. 9 Unionville in Tuesday’s other semifinal — in the title game on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Upper Merion.

The Bucks are an in-form team after knocking off No. 3 seed North Penn a round earlier, and now downing the No. 2 seeds. But C.B. West is obviously taking it all in stride.

“This is kind of just a step along the way,” junior captain Bailey Moyer said.

“We have a bigger picture than just districts. We’re trying to win states and go much further,” Leder said after netting his 10th goal of the year.

Central Bucks West’s Bailey Moyer (9) plays the ball forward during a District 1-4A semifinal Tuesday at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Nevertheless, it was a satisfying spot to surpass.

“It shows our improvement over the past season and how everyone is working and trying to surpass everything we’ve done in the past,” Moyer said.

Spring-Ford (17-3-3) had already surpassed its program’s past by making the semifinals for the first time and earning a place in the PIAA playoffs. The Rams will take on Unionville in the district third-place game Saturday 11 a.m. at Spring-Ford.

“They all held their heads up there at the end. They played hard, it just didn’t go their way,” Spring-Ford head coach Brent Kissel said. “We still have a chance to show the state of Pennsylvania what Spring-Ford soccer is about and we’re excited for that opportunity.”

A fast start by both teams made it look like it was going to be a game with plenty of goals. While both teams’ pace, namely Spring-Ford’s Colin Trainor, Brett Gulati and Brandon Duke and CB West’s Leder, Luke Fehrman and Moyer (a defender who started up top), carried a real threat, the Rams and Bucks defenses were on their games, too.

In the 21st minute, the game changed for good. CB West again attacked quickly and directly to Mike Redfield who played a flick-on header for Leder. The junior broke down the right decisively and played a quick, driven shot to the left, to beat Spring-Ford keeper Ray Fortebuono (three saves).

“I took a touch into space and I had the guy by about two steps and I just put it over the keeper,” Leder said.

Central Bucks West’s Jimi Leder controls the ball as Spring-Ford’s Ethan Mossip defends during their District 1-4A semifinal Tuesday at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Having conceded only 11 goals all season, the Bucks often need only one goal for goalkeeper Dylan Smith, who commanded his area expertly and had eight saves.

“We always pound the ball forward, try to get one early and take it from there,” Moyer said. “We always want to get the first one because it’s harder to come back from (a deficit).”

Spring-Ford came close on a huge ball over the top for Trainor into the penalty area down the right, but Smith closed down well for the save with 5:45 until half.

The Rams’ other best chance came from Duke, whose great first touch gave him a mini-breakaway, but his shot was low and at Smith with 31 minutes to play.

As the second half wore on, the Bucks, with James Lutz, Nick Centenera, Reed Sturza and Redfield joining Moyer in the back, sucked the life out of the game while Spring-Ford’s sharpness faded toward the final whistle.

“I’m proud of how we played the game,” Kissel said. “We knew what they were going to do, be direct and good in the air. We tried to not get stuck in their game and we did that and continued to move the ball around but we just didn’t finish our chances. Smith is a really good goalkeeper and we needed to challenge him more than (shoot) directly at him.”

Central Bucks West’s Reed Sturza (17) clears the ball as Spring-Ford’s Sal Ibarra gives chase during their District 1-4A semifinal Tuesday at Spring-Ford. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Meanwhile, the Bucks will put another tight win in their back pockets and keep chasing their bigger and better goals.

“Everyone has been buying into the team and doing what we need to do to get results every game,” Leder said.

NOTES >> Spring-Ford led in shots on goal 7-4 while CB West led in total shots 9-8 and corners 2-0. … Trainor and Smith had a big collision on a dangerous ball into the 18 with six minutes to play. Trainor got up quickly but did not finish the game while undergoing concussion testing. Results of the testing were not available at press time.