UPPER PROVIDENCE >> Upper Merion went into Wednesday’s game against Pope John Paul II wanting to prove that it’s one of the best teams in District 1 Class-3A and improve its chances at making the district playoffs.
The Vikings didn’t waste any time proving their point.
Lorenzo Mancino’s two goals — the first coming in the game’s opening minute and the second in the 16th — proved to be enough in a 2-1 Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division win over the Golden Panthers at Pope John Paul II High School.
Mancino’s goals were nearly identical. Both times he had the ball out wide, one-on-one with his defender, made a move around them and beat PJP keeper John Wagner from a difficult angle. The second goal was set up when Luke Hutchinson changed the field to get Mancino in a one-on-one situation.
“The keeper was not really looking at me,” Mancino said, describing both goals. “He didn’t bend his knees and he gave me about two feet between his hand and the post. I just — instead of going high, you should go low. I pinged it in the corner.”
Mancino’s impact was clear when he was off the field. He took a seat after his second goal until halftime and the Vikings didn’t get many more opportunities. In the second half, he was the catalyst behind their best chances.
“I just bring a sense of encouragement and hustle (to the offense) when I’m on the field along with everybody else,” Mancino said, crediting the rest of the Vikings. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have scored. They passed it to me, they worked harder than me. I had the opportunity. I just struck it — that’s essentially what I did. They were opportunist goals. I didn’t create anything. It was my teammates who did the work.”
While Mancino was scoring goals, the Golden Panthers looked flat. They got a couple shots on goal in the first half but no truly good chances.
“We were pathetic,” PJP coach Tom Csongradi said. “Since the four years I’ve coached here that’s the worst we’ve played. Even our 0-14 season when I first started, this was a lot worse than that. We lost the game.”
The hosts found a sense of urgency after halftime and started applying pressure. AJ Williams scored in the 76th minute to cut the deficit to one, 2-1, but they couldn’t draw even.
When the teams met last month, Colin Flanegin scored a hat trick in a 3-0 PJP win. He showed fabulous footwork in the rematch, but the Vikings made it a priority to keep him off the board.
“Carlos Garcia marked him,” Upper Merion coach Tom Dodds said. “He did a pretty good job with him and Yaseen (Elarbi) was there to cover for him. It worked out. (Flanegin) is a nice player. He’s definitely their threat.”
Nine teams make the District 1 Class-3A playoffs. Upper Merion entered the game in seventh place. Pope John Paul was 10th.
“Our goal is to be at least (ranked) six or five,” Mancino said. “I think we can do it. We got motivated last game and from now on we have to win every game. Let’s see what happens.”
“District chances — it puts us out of contention right now,” Csongradi said. “This is not going to help. We need to win out the rest of our games and that’s going to be difficult to do. We’ve got some good competition coming up. We’ll be lucky if we make districts this year.”
Upper Merion 2, Pope John Paul II 1
Upper Merion 2 0 — 2
Pope John Paul II 0 1 — 1
Goals: UM: Lorenzo Mancino 2. PJP: AJ Williams.
Assists: UM: Luke Hutchinson.
Saves: UM: Dylan Castillo 3. PJP: John Wagner 6.