FRANCONIA >> For Faith Christian’s Hunter Jones, a district title was even better the second time around.
“It’s honestly the best thing I’ve ever felt in my life cause soccer’s my whole life and I’ve dedicated so much time to this team,” he said. “And after the first one I was so emotional and coming into this game I was confident and I was like ‘We got this.’”
Dock Mennonite struck early in Thursday night’s District 1-A final, but the top-seeded Lions responded with a pair of goals before halftime then held off the No. 2 Pioneers to defend their district championship with a 2-1 victory at Souderton.
“It’s numbing right now,” said Faith coach Ryan Clymer of the back-to-back district crowns. “Last year, it was very fulfilling. This is fulfilling, but now we’ve been here before and we won, which is fantastic. We’re going to enjoy it tonight and then we’re going to get ready for the District 3 champion.”
William Bolla netted the equalizer in the 19th minute while Korey Schuster collected the game-winner in the 37th as Faith advances to the PIAA tournament and gets a rematch with defending state champ Camp Hill in the first round Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. The Lions fell to Camp Hill — which won its second straight District 3 title Wednesday — 1-0 in last season’s state quarterfinals.
“It gives us so much confidence going into states,” Schuster said. “Going against the state champs, Camp Hill. We lost to them, we gave them a great fight last year.”
Dock Mennonite — which defeated Faith 3-2 in overtime on its home turf Sept. 18 — jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Praise Zoegar’s goal at 36:01 in the first half. But the early advantage over its Bicentennial Athletic League rival only lasted close to 15 minutes as the Pioneers could not claim its first District 1 title since 2009.
“We knew coming into this it was going to be a battle and you always give credit to the team, they fought hard. Faith fought hard, Dock fought hard, Both teams obviously wanted to move on to the next level,” Dock Mennonite coach Matt Moyer said. “But credit to them, they capitalized on opportunities and I’m proud of my boys and the season they had. They really have represented our school.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 3, 2017
The Pioneers were making their first district final appearance since that ‘09 season. Dock had lost the last three years in the semifinals.
“That’s something we’ve been pressing forward with. We had a real good stretch of time, 10-year period. And those were great times but I appreciated working with these boys too,” Moyer said. “And our goal is to work to get back and win a district title. You know what, we’ll work hard on the offseason to try to get to that point.”
Dock had a chance to pull level in the contest’s final minutes, drawing a free kick from about 26 yards out. Austin Kratz put a shot on goal, but Faith goalkeeper Chase Peev dove to his left to knock it away and the Lions cleared the ball out for a throw-in.
“He’s been playing really, really big for us the last few games for us,” said Clymer of Peev. “He’s coming off of an injury and I think that diving and getting more reps in practice and not getting hurt — he had something wrong with his hip he fractured last year which is why he didn’t play and so he’s getting surgery in December. They got that all set up, and I think he’s like, ‘Cool, I’m getting surgery anyway, so I might as well just play.”
Jones said conceding a goal early was a bit deflating, but the senior tried did his part to make sure Faith Christian regained its confidence with the season on the line.
“It’s a little worrying, heartbreaking cause you feel like it’s just over with. And hoping the team doesn’t get down on yourselves,” he said. “But I just got to keep building my team up and doing what I can to keep us in it.”
Bolla, however, tallied to make it 1-1 at 21:09 in the opening half. Schuster then put the Lions ahead for good by popping a shot into the net with 3:10 left until halftime.
“These guys worked hard and they rallied around each other,” Clymer said. “And we always talk about it’s always about God. God brought us all here together and the effort they put fourth and how young they are, we played for our seniors. And these guys grew up real fast, which is great to see.”
— Mike Cabrey (@mpcabrey) November 3, 2017
Jones came close to giving Faith a third goal in the second half as his free kick from about 24 yards out hit the left post.
Zoegar’s collected Thursday night’s opening goal off a corner kick, knocking in a loose ball in front of the net.
“You talk about set pieces being important piece of things and we capitalized on that,” Moyer said. “We gave up a couple goals here, but all-in-all, I think, both teams played a quality game.”