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Avon Grove’s lockdown defense ousts Garnet Valley

WORCESTER >> When Avon Grove and Garnet Valley collided in the regular season, Matt Moore was still stranded on the sidelines, rehabbing a leg injury from the soccer season. Saturday, though, Moore was present with his fellow Jags, the focal point of an attack seeking a berth in the PIAA Class 3A semifinals.

Talking to Avon Grove defender Bryce DeMuth, you’d be hard-pressed to discern which of the two arrangements was preferable. By the grin on his face, it’s safe to say he leaned to the latter.

DeMuth put the clamps on Moore, spearheading an outstanding defensive effort as Avon Grove sprinted to a 10-5 win at Methacton High School.

The victory advances the Red Devils (21-2) to Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Central Bucks East, which shocked District 12 champion La Salle, 8-6, in the earlier quarterfinal at Methacton.

DeMuth drew the primary responsibility of taking on the three-time All-Delco Moore and held the University of Virginia-bound midfielder in check. Moore set up a goal by Evan Trizonis in the third quarter, but that was his only scoring contribution.

“I was excited for the opportunity,” DeMuth said. “I know he’s a great player. I covered (Upper Dublin grad/Princeton freshman) Michael Sowers last year, but Matt Moore is by far the best player I’ve covered, and it was a great opportunity. I love it. My teammates helped me out and made it fun.”

The Yale commit DeMuth wasn’t alone in the comprehensive defensive performance. And as much as the accolades gravitate toward the Devils who did the scoring, even they defer credit to the unsung heroes.

The defensive unit of DeMuth, James Chastain and Brayden Peck muzzled the two main Garnet threats, Moore and Jacob Buttermore, who posted an assist each. The frustration meted out at the touchstones of the attack forced Garnet out of its game. Instead of forcing the issue with Moore, the Jags (18-6) opted to attack the perceived weak points of the Avon Grove defense, hoping players like Hunter Baar and Jake Morin could make headway against defensive middies.

In the process, though, that took the ball out of the stick of Moore and Buttermore (Syracuse signee) for an attack already depleted by the season-ending knee injury to Denny Nealon.

“We always expect teams to be cautious with Matt or lock him off,” said Trizonis, the lone attacking bright spot with two goals and an assist. “So we try to attack short sticks and do what we can with him, use picks to free him up or free other guys up to score.”

“They saw that I was pressuring out on (Moore) so their other guys stepped up, but my other defenders stepped up,” DeMuth said. “We played great team defense, and that’s why we won the game.”

A key part of the team aspect was goalie Kevin Malone, who turned aside 11 shots. Since he was pulled at halftime in the District 1 final loss to Conestoga, the senior goalie has responded with a pair of stellar outings.

“He had an amazing game,” DeMuth said. “The district championship game, our defense let him down. He got pulled out. But the next time, he stepped up big.”

The leading lights in the attack are easy to identify — Brendan Harman (four goals), Joey Borcky (two goals, three assists) and Zach Augustine (two goals). But Nate Hammond supplied the bedrock for their success, the Navy commit compiling an 18-for-22 day at the X, including wins on all 10 second-half draws to blunt any hopes of a Garnet recovery.

“He won us the game, him and the defense,” Borcky said. “If we didn’t have him, we wouldn’t have won.”

It took Garnet Valley 18 minutes to get on the scoreboard until Trizonis tallied at 5:55 of the second, making it 5-1. Baar added a goal to winnow the deficit to 5-2 at half, and Scooter Whiteside and Jake D’Annunzio traded tallies early in the third. But goals 61 seconds apart by Harman and Borcky swelled the margin to 8-3, a bridge too far for the Jaguars.

“It was tough for us to mentally get over that hump,” Trizonis said. “We tried to crawl our way back, but we couldn’t get there.”

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